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"As a Scab" : Rank and File Workers, Strikebreakers, and the end of the 1951 Waterfront Lock-outOn 9 July 1951, the unions involved in the waterfront lock-out and the lock-out’s supporting strikes met and passed a return to work motion: ‘Supremely confident of the conscious discipline of our ranks we call upon every individual member to return to work and hold up the banner of his union on the job.’ The wording of the motion implied a top-down decision, and suggested that the rank and file were waiting for the call to return to work, an assumption that historians have not challenged. This article presents a different view of the end of the dispute, and explores the assessments that workers made about continuing the dispute, to demonstrate that they did not blindly followed those in leadership positions. Strikebreakers were central to the decisions workers made to continue the dispute; outside strikebreakers presented a risk to existing workers job – and the threat of never working on the wharf again made the costs of the dispute untenable for many. Despite their importance, strikebreakers have been under-researched, and this article suggests new ways of understanding the decisions made both by strikebreakers and by those who remained on strike or locked-out until 9 July. To understand the end of the 1951 waterfront dispute, it is not enough to examine the actions of union and political leaders like Jock Barnes, President of the New Zealand Waterfront Workers Union, and Prime Minister Sidney Holland.
Correction in the Countryside: Convict Labour in Rural Germany 1871-1914Over the course of the Empire demand for labour in the countryside and penal reform together created the conditions for a greater deployment of prisoners, workhouse inmates and young offenders in agriculture. Farming on site, and especially leasing offenders, were the most cost-efficient ways of detaining men. Agricultural work was also regarded as key to their rehabilitation. It served to equip inmates upon release for the sector of the economy most in need of workers. ‘Outside work’ away from the institution was also seen as an intermediate stage in the prisoner's sentence before release. Two developments in the charitable sector complemented this correctional strategy: the emergence of a network of workers’ farming colonies which acted as half-way houses for ex-prisoners after release, and ex-offender employment programmes run by prisoner welfare societies, channelling ex-offenders towards agricultural employment. Despite these efforts to reintegrate offenders, re-offending rates remained high. Penal authorities either attributed this to the incorrigibility of some inmates, or pushed for longer sentences. In some cases penal and medical authorities were inclined to re-interpret the criminal behaviour of repeat offenders as behaviour symptomatic of mental illness, and some inmates were transferred to asylums. In the discourse surrounding the failure of reform the argument that the exclusionary and punitive nature of the prison and workhouse régime actually worked against rehabilitation held little sway, nor the argument that high re-offending rates could be attributed to the vagrancy and begging laws which criminalized systemic poverty and homelessness. Absent here was any understanding that the life offered following release, working as ancillary workers or hands on the estates, bore too striking a resemblance to work in agriculture during detention. This in itself was one major reason why many ex-offenders directed into agricultural employment after release refused to stay and work.
This is not charity: the masculine work of strike reliefOn March 14 1951, the relief committee of the Auckland branch of the New Zealand Waterside Workers’ union voted to exclude women from the union’s relief depot. This article examines the decisions of the Auckland relief committee during a lock-out that lasted from January to June 1951. The men organizing relief understood the relationship between class, gender and welfare perpetuated by mainstream welfare organizations and they were determined not to replicate it. Excluding women was part of their effort to reconstruct the work of welfare as masculine work. Union relief structures are very much of their time; they are created as a result of an industrial conflict and usually dismantled when it ends. Because of their transient nature, they are particularly revealing about the contours of gender, class, work and welfare in a particular time and place. There is also potential for research to inform the historiography of relief. In working-class cultures where it is a man’s role to earn money and a woman’s role to manage that money, union relief during strikes and lock-outs affects and redefines both these roles. Exploring how workers have navigated these situations deepens our understanding of working-class communities.
We never recovered: The social cost of the 1951 New Zealand waterfront dispute and supporting strikesIn July 1951, 15,000 New Zealand watersiders, miners, freezing-workers and seamen returned to work after being locked-out or on strike, but their lives, and the lives of those dependent on their income, did not return to normal. For five months, most workers and their families had had to borrow money and leave bills unpaid in order to survive, and they needed to pay their debts. This article examines the social cost of the 1951 waterfront dispute. It concentrates on strike debt, and the long shadow that debt cast on family and community relationships. This article argues that many of the costs of an industrial dispute are not paid until after it ends, but in contrast to union’s collective concern about costs during the dispute, costs after the dispute are privatised and treated as the concern of individual families.