Chapter eight


Q. Does it take a certain amount of skill to become a builder’s labourer?
Jack Millard (Federal BLF President)

A. Yes, and to live at it too.
Morrie O’Donnell (20 years a labourer, and father of twenty)[1]

4,130 words

Aged sixty, and almost blind, the Melbourne Eight-Hour pioneer, James Stephens, broke both arms in a fall at work in the early 1880s. He was fortunate to be remembered by his Stonemason brethren who collected ₤500.[2] In late 1906, Melbourne building unions raised £500 for the families of two men killed and three badly injured on a job.[3] Such generosity was admirable, yet inadequate. In South Australia, the foundation Secretary of the United Builders’ Labourers’ Society, Gregor McGregor, had to continue working as a stone-mason and navvy after losing much of his eyesight in a forestry mishap in 1878, as did the worker-poet, John Shaw Neilson.[4]

This chapter looks at three more ways in which labourers have supported each other against the dangers at work. General comments on union relief funds are followed by an account of funeral benefits before surveying the provision for “slow workers”.

A benefit society
Labourers needed to enforce safety on the job more than they needed charity. Beyond that, their unions called on governments to establish a system of worker’s compensation. In the interim, the unions maintained contributory funds.[5] Providing for funerals and accidents buttressed the opposition to piece-rates since such speed-ups put labourers at greater risk. Hence, support for benefits was a reaction to workplace realities, not a step back from conflict.

After the Builders’ Labourers’ Unions federated in 1910, the Branches carried forward some of the benefit schemes. The Victorians set up a Club into which members could choose to pay. A labourer who contributed for 13 weeks became entitled to 13 weeks’ support at ₤1 a week; he could then receive 10s for another 13 weeks, before his total benefit was capped at ₤19 10s. If he were killed on a job, his family got a funeral benefit of ₤10. (211 & 464) The Branch paid out over ₤200 each year from 1911 to 1913 while, in the second half of 1915, its outlays were £307.[6] Given the dangers of the work, and the absence of a Scaffolding Act, the rank-and-file wanted the scheme to succeed. When Secretary Mulvogue declared that welfare work had no place in an industrial organisation, 250 members voted down his 1916 motion to abolish the Club. This show of support did not reverse its financial decline. Two months later, the reserves were almost exhausted.[7]

Meanwhile, Melbourne labourers organised socials for their injured fellows. A 1916 Bazaar raised ₤115 for Comrade Spargo.[8] After the Branch heard that Brother Snowdon “was right up against it”, having earned only ₤4 in three months in 1924, the members held a fund-raiser for him and two others.[9] In Sydney, the United Labourers’ Protective Society also maintained its welfare arm, paying out ₤4,500 to injured members between 1919 and 1924.[10] In the first week in March 1926, the Victorian Branch’s outgoings totaled ₤82 8s 5d., almost half going as benefits: ₤19 13s 4d on accident pay, a ₤15 mortuary payment, and ₤1 19s to a sick member, despite his being un-financial.[11]

Although the ABLF continued as a welfare society as well as an industrial union, there were limits on its beneficence. In Brisbane, Comrade Wilson had been watching the England-Australia Rugby League test when the stand collapsed, leaving him in a bad way in hospital with a broken thigh, and his family without a breadwinner. The Branch referred his appeal for sustenance to the League.[12]

The Victorian Branch appointed a Sick Visitor whose services were welcomed by labourers who were single or transient. If injured or ill, they had no one to conduct their business or run errands. For example, on hearing in 1925 that a member was penniless in hospital after surgery, the members voted ₤2 and donated another 13s out their own pockets. Six months later, the hat went round to pay the dues for another hospitalised member.[13] A 1927 motion to pass the tasks of the Sick Visitor to the organisers in an effort to stop men malingering was defeated by a single vote.[14]

The Victorian Executive had to weigh justice against compassion in June 1926 in the case of Ivo Thompson, a job rep. who had met with an accident. His own contributions were in credit but he had not paid in ₤3 8s from collecting dues. The Executive thought it was “a very doubtful position” whether it could “withhold his accident payments” since it “had not taken steps to collect the amount outstanding by him as a Shop Steward.” Thompson explained that he had used the union’s money to bury his sister, and “that he could not leave his mother go without food once he had done wrong.” The Executive credited his accident benefit to his Shop Steward account while he agreed to pay the outstanding ₤1 4s 8d within two weeks: “He was then told to go back to work.”[15]

Bending a rule meant ending up with no rules. Flexibility opened a side door to favouritism. That outcome endangered unity. A whip around the membership was a safer bet than the waiving of regulations. Nonetheless, a meeting later in 1926 agreed to dip into the THC Fund to provide old and infirm unionists with “some little sustenance”. Although Secretary Percy Smith supported the sentiment, he warned: “Members could not treat the Union as a Bank of Benevolence, where one could put in 4d and draw out ₤4.”[16]

Early in 1928, Smith himself proposed establishing an Incidental Fund to do just that. By contributing 6d every six months, a member could borrow up to ₤5. The need for such a service was real with labourers more likely than most workers to be short of cash and with fewer assets to pawn; a number were away from family and friends from whom they could borrow. The discussion continued for several weeks with opponents pointing to the mismanagement of previous schemes, including the funeral benefit. Organiser Loughnan calculated that, on a 6d weekly subscription, a man would have to contribute for 100 years to cover the ₤5 he could borrow. Smith’s proposal was defeated.[17] Members then restarted the Pension Fund. Only four had joined by late 1929 when Smith reported that it was “absolutely unsound”.[18] By then, so was the Branch after the 1929 lock-out of timber workers, and it limped on with a £200 loan from John Wren’s secretary.[19]

Early in the depression, Wilfred Arthur Partridge slit his wrists and throat after being refused a pension because he was ten months short of his 65th birthday. His farewell note read: “No home, no friends, poor, old, insane. Partridge, good-bye. All rest in peace. Old men not wanted, just young ones.”[20] Labouring men from the Salvation Army refuge on Bourke Street got a few shillings by posing at the National Art School in Russell street; their gaunt bodies provided students with exercises in skeletal form, not displays of muscle.[21]

The best that the Executive could do for Bro. McMahon in May 1930 was to advance him £1 for a Hawker’s licence. To assist other unemployed members, the Branch imposed a £1 levy on those in regular work. Next, to provide the jobless with Christmas cheer, it struck a levy of two shillings a week for four weeks, but garnered very little. Despite these gestures, members used “rather strong” remarks to reject as “degrading” a 1931 motion to seek charity for unemployed members.[22] In regard to the provision of public relief, the ABLF pushed radical proposals, wanting the Salvoes out and the government in. Since the Federal Labor had abolished compulsory military training and slashed the Army, the drills halls should be used as shelters from where blankets and kit could be distributed.[23]

As recognition dawned that unemployment needed to be overcome throughout the economy and not just for the building industry, a Communist scaffolder, Jack Smith, proposed a capital levy to fund public works; he urged mass meetings of the unemployed to insist on jobs at the basic wage, and for all the workers to continue meeting until their claims were met. [24] A conference between the ALP and the THC to come up with “ideas” exposed the bankruptcy of both the parliamentary and industrial wings of the labour movement. A general meeting of the ABLF tossed around proposals with some favouring a uniform rail gauge to create jobs, while venerable claims were advanced for day labour and preference for unionists.[25] The Executive called on the THC to arrange a conference of all officials and organisers to make proposals to the Labor cabinets. Nothing much eventuated, except a widening of the rift between the THC leadership and the ABLF.[26] By November 1930, the Victorian militants had linked their views about the purpose of government to a three-point plan to deliver immediate assistance: a rent moratorium for the jobless, half of the unemployment tax to be passed to the THC to distribute as relief, and confiscation of interest over 3½% to support the unemployed.[27]

Alongside these political and industrial proposals, the union continued its good works. In February 1930, it called for a Monster Meeting to impress on the public, churches, business, municipalities and governments the “extreme urgency of alleviating the distress” before winter.[28] The Branch discussed co-operative stores, pointing to those in the United Kingdom and to one at Port Adelaide. The project needed ₤5,000 to get started with unionists joining by one shilling down and then a shilling a week.[29] As with several other propositions, this one came after any prospect of making it work had passed.

The choice was starker than between either managing capitalism or capping its excesses. In the balance was whether to revive capitalism or to replace it. Advocates of each alternative did not know how to proceed. At the ACTU Congress in Sydney early in 1931, the call for a general strike expressed frustration more than a welding of tactics onto strategy.[30] The labourers were not the only unionists to be overwhelmed ideologically, politically and industrially.[31] Sold out by ALP governments, segments of the Left were swayed by the demagoguery of NSW premier Jack Lang. In a minority report to the Melbourne Trades Hall in 1932 on a shorter working week, a Communist metalworker identified the over-production inherent in capitalist competition at the root of the crisis.[32]

The Communist Party could not offer leadership until it stopped behaving as what one Adelaide IWW militant disparaged in 1927 as “small impotent groups of propagandists wilding beating the air” to the confusion of the working class.[33] The adoption of Leninist methods became the key to rebuilding job organisation in most industries, including the building trades with the renewed drive for one big industry union.

The Victorian labourers were was not helped by having an alcoholic Secretary, Percy Smith.[34] The rank-and-file who bothered to attend fell to brawling,[35] while the organisers and office staff scrambled to retain their jobs and vehicles.[36] Other State Branches fared much the same. Queensland fell under the sway of no-hopers until taken back by the Left which wanted nothing more fervently than permission to secede from the ABLF in order to join an industrial union for that State.[37] The South Australians retained a militant leadership.[38] Tasmania was moribund, having paid no sustentation fees for many years.[39] As a result, the federal body proved less effective than ever until after 1940.[40]

Under new and militant leadership during 1941, the Victorian Executive helped out one member injured on his way home from work, another who broke his leg on a Saturday afternoon, and for an Italian comrade who was unfinancial.[41] These collections were welcome because accident victims took much longer to recover than today; for instance, the Victorian Executive heard in 1948 that Comrade Murphy was “starting to make good progress” after 15 months in hospital with a broken leg.[42]

At the peak of the Victorians’ militancy in the 1970s, the Branch revived its sick visitor, sending fruit and flowers to members in hospital, with an official calling to make sure that the patients had someone to look out for them. As Assistant-Secretary Norm Wallace observed: “You have to support your workmates when they are down. This service has been most helpful to some of our older members who do not have much family left and to those who are working interstate.” Wallace felt that such activities were “what a decent union was about.”[43]

Burying our dead

“He saved, but it was just enough to bury him.”
                               Widow, early 1950s.[44]

A Henry Lawson story, “The Union Buries Its Dead”, illustrated one earthly reward from holding a union ticket. An itinerant dies in a country town, “a young union labourer, about twenty-five.” In his swag is General Labourers’ Union ticket. The mourners wonder whether it will “be recognised ‘over yonder’.” Lawson did not say who paid for the funeral. His readers knew, in the words of another of his yarns, that the union rep. had sent around the hat.[45]

Few miseries held as much horror for working people as being buried “like a dog” in a pauper’s grave. Between 1853 and 1904, the Victorian government paid for 8,500 funerals, or 170 annually, which it contracted to undertakers who skimped as religiously on coffins as builders did on scaffolding.[46] One of the terrors of destitution was to be committed to a government institution from which your remains were thrown into the dirt with a pile of other corpses before the most casual observance – if any. There, you were left to rot without so much as a personal marker, let alone a headstone. Even worse was the fear that your cadaver would be treated as government property and handed over to the Medical School for dissection. In that case, your remains might not get a burial service of any kind.[47]

Victorian labourers set up a mortuary fund in 1903. For a time, the benefit applied to their dependents. During the 1906-07 dispute, money from the strike committee buried one member’s sister.(499) Greater strictness was essential to keep the funeral fund solvent. Even so, it was usually in danger of sinking and was more than once suspended. Members needed to be financial to receive the ₤15. The Executive enforced this rule to the letter. Being behind for even a couple of days disqualified your corpse. On such occasions, Branch meetings voted an ex gratia payment, and took up a collection among those present before sending lists around the jobs.

When Bro. Moss died of kidney disease in July 1926, he was a shilling behind in his dues, and the Victorian Executive recognised that they faced a serious case but “could not see their way to depart from the rules … the man was ineligible.” A week later, Bro. Cober appeared at the Executive on behalf of Moss’s widow. The Executive stood firm until Cober offered ₤2 to start a fund, whereupon the officers referred the matter to a Branch Meeting.[48] J. Lopez was another “real good unionist” who had “paid in advance”, being 8s in credit when killed in a motor accident in 1928; the Executive voted the ₤15 to prevent his being buried a pauper.[49]

Later that year, the Victorian Branch tried to keep its mortuary benefit going by excluding the old and infirm. Henry Hannah softened these rules to admit incapacitated labourers of five years standing; under his amendment, the elderly paid only 6s 6d per half year for the full benefit.[50] Before the members abolished the Mortuary Fund on 9 March 1931, the arguments pro and con had merit. Militants grumbled that the Fund tended to “subordinate the Industrial to the friendly side of the matter.” Bro. Fox went so far as to declare that the

union should not concern itself with the matter of where and how a man was going to be buried. At all events, it did not matter much to him. He was more concerned with how best he could procure some of the good things of life.[51]

The other side noted that the Fund had brought in members and kept them financial. Late in 1932, the Branch re-established an Accident and Mortuary Fund, to be kept separately from the Industrial Fund.[52] The internal chaos of the late 1930s left the Victorians with barely enough money to pay their organisers and office staff. Nonetheless, in October 1941, the members voted ₤4 7s to the dependents of an old member G. Henderson, whom the Executive had fined ₤10 for scabbing a few weeks earlier.[53]

In NSW, the United Labourers’ Protective Society (ULPS) paid out ₤1,000 for funerals between 1919 and 1924.[54] After the 25-year-old English sailor “Nipper” Addison died on the Harbour Bridge, his workmates put in half-a-day’s pay each; they heard later that “Nipper’s” wife went mental.[55] When Sydney rigger Johnny Mitchell fell seven floors to his death in March 1974, his workmates chipped in their day’s pay and made the funeral arrangements.[56]

The Commonwealth Labor government had established a ₤10 funeral benefit for aged and invalid pensioners in 1943. That money could not be paid to any fund run by undertakers, many of whom swindled the poor. The Commonwealth benefit did not increase over the next thirty years.[57] Victoria’s Compensation Act provided a funeral benefit worth $750 in 1980. The union won paid leave for one day to attend a funeral of a close relative while the Federal Award allowed labourers to take ten days unpaid “bereavement leave”.

Most Branches had been too poor to underwrite a benefit to supplement the government grant. Queensland was the exception, establishing a mortuary fund early in 1956 by transferring ₤1,000 from general revenues. Members paid 1s each half year for a benefit of ₤25.[58] Although Bro. Jennings died unfinancial, the union paid the benefit because he had been sick for so long a time. S. Zibinskas had been a member since 1959 when the police found him dead; his union buried him. The Executive advanced $28.60 to the family on an honorary member to cover a shortfall needed to pay the undertaker.[59] Rule-bending to meet hard cases was supplemented by sending around the hat, as happened for a Gladstone labourer late in 1965, with the BLs on site contributing 5s each for his burial.[60] Today, the Branch guarantees $7,000 towards funeral expenses for the member, a spouse and dependent children.

During the 1990s, building workers in Victoria took action to reduce the occasions when such comradeship was called for by hitting the employers where it hurt. On every death in industry, the Construction Division walked off for the day and insisted on full-pay. The Building and Construction Commission outlawed that safety program in 2005.[61] Why is it that grief counsellors are dispatched to every trauma, yet builders’ labourers are expected to see a workmate killed or crippled and to keep going as if nothing has happened?[62]

“Slow” workers
Providing benefits was only one of the compensation schemes that labourers developed to cushion their lot. They knew that those of them lucky enough to escape death or disablement were weakened by a thousand cuts and strains. Labourers were more likely than most wage-earners to be injured and worn down. They were also the least likely to have earned enough to have savings. Few kept up a life insurance policy. Aged and invalid pensions were miserly, and rehabilitation or Superannuation unknown. Labourers, therefore, clung to whatever jobs they could around sites. Their unions exempted “slow” members from core provisions in the Awards to let them earn something, even to accept piece-rates for cleaning bricks at so much per 1,000.

From the nineteenth century, the ULPS had allowed members over 45 to cut whatever deal they could, so long as they upheld the Eight-Hour Day. The 1905 Queensland Compensation Act paid only a fraction of the entitlement to a worker with an infirm certificate.[63] The 1913 ABLF Log included “Permit work” for those over 50, or who had been incapacitated. To limit their numbers, the union approved who was eligible for the concession. (21) In some industries, a worker had to rely on the union secretary for a permit, with no right of appeal. The NSW system operated the other way around. The Registrar of the State Arbitration Court granted the permit but the union secretary could then object if he suspected a scam. (360)

Unless policed by the organisers, permits for “slow workers” became a dodge for bosses. The concession opened the way to sweating when employers advertised for “men with permits”. (68) The bigger contractors worried that spec builders used “slow” workers to under-bid for contracts. Loughnan reported in 1913 that “a number of employers were getting cheap labour at the expense of their rivals.” He gave an example where the union had granted permits to five men whom the contractor put to work flat out mixing mortar, four holding “their own with men in good physical condition.” The MBA’s representative interjected: “That is no good to us.” (361)

The members’ demand for permits increased when work became scarce as did their willingness to accept whatever terms they could get.[64] Hence, by 1935, the Branch in Victoria decided to enforce its Awards. Loughnan noted that the MBA expressed “sympathy” for labourers who had been incapacitated or grown old in their service but when asked to put this kind-heartedness into practice “by employing the men in the erection of the building, they gave an evasive answer.”[65]

“Slow” did not always mean old. In 1937, a 39-year old labourer with the Sydney Water Board was off work for 12 months after being hit on the head by a bucket. The Board took him back as on light duties which included looking after the “change houses, attending to showers, drying workers wet clothes, boiling water for meals, and doing any light laboring, odd jobs, or messages.”[66]

From 1960, the ABLF reconsidered its provision for “slow workers” since mechanisation was increasing the range of tasks that they could perform.[67] Some machines reduced the stress and strain on bone and muscle, thereby extending the working lives of navvies.[68] On the other hand, machines intensified the pace of work so that older men found themselves at a new disadvantage. This rethinking of the category of “slow worker” was an early sign that labourers were lifting themselves out of the bottom end of the market for labour power. The Federation fought for its casual labour force to have the entitlements of permanent employees.[69]

To extend the earning life of its members, the Federation won paid holidays and portable long-service leave.[70] Superannuation came in the 1980s.[71] At all times, the union pushed for higher wages to compensate labourers for the time they lost following the job and during downturns in the cycle of construction. A higher wage-rate also made up for the shorter span of years during which a labourer could earn top money than did most tradesmen and professionals. No more than 15 percent of brickies’ labourers continued after turning fifty.

The 1978 Award provided that aged and infirm workers be paid at a lower rate for no more than 12 months at a stretch. Such arrangements still needed the written approval of the Federation. The union pressed employers to keep jobs as hoist-drivers and “billy boy” for its older members. Some of the resistance to women labourers was because they took these positions away from injured or aging male members.[72] Around the same time, union calls for full-time safety and first-aid officers provided chances for a few more labourers to stay on, compensating them for decades of body stress.

When Jack Mundey stepped aside as NSW Branch Secretary to return to industry in September 1973 he was 42. By that age, most labourers had withdrawn from the trade or were seeking easy options on sites. Mundey had been a full-time official for the previous eleven years during which building operations had changed, his hands had softened, his muscles slackened. That long lay-off had protected his body from the “usual bangs and scrapes” so that he was in a better position to keep going than were many of his middle-aged members; however, his body had lost the tautness that they retained. He could have kept going as a “nipper” more surely than as a steel fixer. Mundey went back, got his photograph taken, but, as his wife commented: “He goes to the job – he just doesn’t get there very often.”[73] Those who mocked Mundey’s reluctance to put in a full week’s work ignored the toll that labouring took. As he had remarked: “Every builders’ labourer wants to be something else. A man’s a mug to be a builders’ labourer. It’s a bastard of a job.”[74]

[1] Transcript of 1913 Award Hearings in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, Australian Builders’ Labourers’ Federation v A. W. Archer, Australian Archives B1958 (B1958/1) 9/1912, p. 610, hereafter the page references are given in brackets.

[2] Clive Turnbull, Bluestone, Hawthorn, Melbourne , 1965, p. 33; Australian Dictionary of Biography, volume 10, MUP, Carlton , 1986, pp. 275-6.

[3] Builders’ Labourers’ News (BLN), 12 May 1916 , p. 3.

[4] John Shaw Neilson, Autobiography of John Shaw Neilson, National Library of Australia, Canberra, 1978.

[5] Trades Hall Gazette, 2 and 9 February 1989, p. 10.

[6] BLN, 24 December 1915 , p. 3.

[7] BLN, 21 January 1916 , p. 2, 17 March 1916 , p. 2

[8] BLN, 31 March 1916 , p. 4.

[9] Australian Builders’ Labourers’ Federation (ABLF), Victorian Branch Records, Minutes, 7 April 1924 , Noel Butlin Archives Centre (NBAC), ANU, Z 398/20.

[10] George Waite papers, Mitchell Library (ML), MSS 208/2/5.

[11] Victorian Minutes, 1 March 1926 ; for a wider view of need and support, see the Report of the National Insurance Royal Commission, Commonwealth of Australia, Parliamentary Papers, 1926-28, volume 4, Part II, pp. 1411-86.

[12] ABLF, Queensland Branch Records, Minutes, 10 July and 7 August 1928 , Fryer Library, University of Queensland , QUFL 166.

[13] Victorian Minutes, 17 August 1925 , 1 March and 29 March 1926 .

[14] Victorian Minutes, 26 April 1927 .

[15] Victorian Executive, 16 June 1926 .

[16] Victorian Minutes, 23 August 1926 , 18 September 1925 .

[17] Victorian Minutes, 9 January, 20 February and 5 March 1928 .

[18] Victorian Minutes, 27 November 1929 .

[19] Victorian Minutes, 9 December 1929 and 29 April 1935 .

[20] Argus, 29 January 1931 , p. 8f.

[21] Jacqueline Macnaughton, From life: works by early generations of students at the National Gallery Art School , Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne , 2004, pp. 26-27 and 29-30.

[22] Victorian Executive, 21 and 28 May 1930, Minutes, 24 November 1930 ; Executive, 22 December 1930 ; Minutes, 13 April and 21 December 1931 .

[23] Victorian Minutes, 28 July 1930 .

[24] Victorian Minutes, 25 March, 12 and 26 May 1930.

[25] Victorian Minutes, 20 December 1929 .

[26] Victorian Minutes, 8 January, 19 February and 26 May 1930 .

[27] Victorian Minutes, 24 November 1930 .

[28] Victorian Minutes, 12 February 1930 .

[29] Victorian Minutes, 31 March 1930 .

[30] Jim Hagan, The History of the A,C.T.U., Longman Cheshire , Melbourne, 1981, pp. 95-99.

[31] L. J. Louis, Trade Unions and the Depression, A Study of Victoria , 1930-32, ANU Press, Canberra , 1968.

[32] Report of Sub-Committee on Shorter Worker Week, Melbourne Trades Hall Council, Melbourne , 1932, pp. 7-8.

[33] Quoted Jim Moss, Sound the Trumpets, History of the Labour Movement in South Australia , Wakefield Press, Adelaide , 1985, p. 273.

[34] Victorian Minutes, 8 February 1932 .

[35] Victorian Minutes, 23 January 1930 and 21 December 1931 .

[36] Victorian Executive, 8 May 1929 , and Minutes 26 August 1929 , 7 September 1931 and 10 October 1932 .

[37] Hall Greenland, “Nick Origlasso and the shovel-less men”, Red Hot, The Life and Times of Nick Origlass, 1908-1996, Wellington Lane Press, Sydney, 1999, chapter 7; Queensland Conference Minutes, 28 November 1936; Queensland Minutes, 12 March 1940.

[38] John Playford, “History of the Left-Wing of the South Australian Labor Movement, 1908-36”, B. A. (Hons) Thesis, University of Adelaide, 1958, pp. 94 and 107; Tribune, 27 June (p. 4), 4 July (p. 4) and 11 July 1947 (p. 7).

[39] Queensland Executive, 28 November 1936 .

[40] Victorian Executive, 6 November 1929 and 30 June 1930 .

[41] Victorian Minutes, 8 December 1941 ; ABLF, NSW Branch Records, Minutes, 9 June 1942 , Mitchell Library (ML), MSS4879, Box MLK 04275.

[42] Victorian Executive, 5 May 1948; NSW Minutes, 31 August and 9 September 1943 .

[43] Builders Labourers’ Federal Journal, September 1982, p. 23.

[44] Quoted Bertram Hutchinson, Old People in a Modern Australian Community, MUP, Carlton, 1954, p. 164; see also Alan Stoller (ed.), Growing Old, Problems of Old Age in the Australian Community, Cheshire, Melbourne, 1960.

[45] Henry Lawson, Collected stories, Viking O’Neil, Ringwood, 1987, pp. 55-59 and 761-75; funerals were not always sober affairs, see C. W. Sullivan’s papers, ML MSS A2886, pp. 49-50, and Peter Lalor, The Bridge, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2005, p. 221.

[46] Pat Jalland, Australian ways of death: a social and cultural history, 1840-1918, OUP, South Melbourne , 2002, pp. 199-239 and 268-73; see also Graeme M. Griffin and Des Tobin, In the Midst of Life … The Australian Response to Death, MUP, Carlton, 1997 edition.

[47] John Stubbs, The Hidden People, Poverty in Australia , Cheshire-Lansdowne, Melbourne , 1966, p. 27.

[48] Victorian Executive, 14 and 21 July 1926; Accidents and Mortuary Benefit Fund Meetings Minute Book, Z398/1 and 28.

[49] Victorian Executive, 23 May 1928.

[50] Victorian Minutes, 9 January and 25 June 1928 .

[51] Victorian Minutes, 9 March 1931 .

[52] Victorian Branch, 12 September 1932 .

[53] Victorian Minutes, 6 October and 28 July 1941 ; for similar collections see 7 April, 21 July and 8 December 1941 .

[54] Waite Papers, ML MSS 208/2(5).

[55] Lalor, The Bridge, p. 210.

[56] NSW Miscellaneous correspondence file, 9 March, 15 May, 3 June and 4 July 1974 , MLK 04263.

[57] T. C. Kewley, Social Security in Australia, Social Security and Health Benefits from 1900 to the present, Sydney University Press, Sydney, 1965, pp. 263-64.

[58] Queensland Minutes, 4 October 1955 and Special Meeting 24 January 1956 ; cf. NSW Branch Minutes, 14 April 1960 , Box 04270 .

[59] Queensland Executive, 11 January 1966 , 2 January and 12 February 1968 .

[60] Queensland Executive, 11 October 1965 .

[61] Australian Building and Construction Commission, Annual Report, 2005-6, pp. 50-51.

[62] National Safety, February 2005, pp. 16-20, August 2007, pp. 33-35.

[63] J. W. Blair, et al., Workers’ Compensation Act of 1905: with an explanation of its provisions and cases decided on, Law Book Company of Australasia , Brisbane , 1906, p. 119.

[64] Victorian Executive, 4 February 1924 .

[65] Victorian Minutes, 4 February 1935 , 10 and 24 May 1937.

[66] NSW Workers’ Compensation Reports, volume 13, 1939, pp. 109-10.

[67] Builders’ Labourers’ Journal, October 1957, p. 2; Builder’s Laborer, March 1959, p. 15, and October 1959, pp. 3 & 15; ABLF Records, Federal Management Committee (FMC), 17 January 1960, NBAC, N130/49; Journal of the Building, Transport and Timber Workers’ Trades, June 1960, p. 19; FMC, 1966, N130/54; for the 1968 “skills” Award see Queensland Executive, 25 March 1968; file on “Wage Fixing Principles”, Z398/41; FMC, April 1969, N130/57; Western Australian Industrial Gazette, December 1966, p. 667; Jack Mundey to NSW MBA, 13 November 1970, MLK 04170.

[68] Shire and Municipal Record, August 1924, pp. 89-90, September 1924, pp. 147-8, and October 1924, pp. 205-6; Melbourne Trades Hall Council, Report of the Shorter Working Week Committee, Melbourne, 1932, p. 2; Construction Review, April 1936, pp. 27-28.

[69] For a discussion of primary and secondary labour markets see Jamie Peck, Workplace: the social regulation of labour markets, Guilford Press, New York , 1996, chapter 3.

[70] Entitlement with a single employer began in the 1950s, for the ACT example see 99 Commonwealth Arbitration Reports (1962) 639, and 100 CAR (1962) 628; George Crawford, Footprints, privately published, Melbourne, 1997, pp. 143-4; for South Australia, Construction, February 1974, p. 1; Victorian details see Australian Builder, December 1976, pp. 494-5; for NSW, see Building Worker, December 1974, p. 3; although Queenslanders in government employment earned pro rata leave after 8 years from around 1953, the rest waited until 1992, Builders’ Laborer, December 1992, pp. 15-16 and 21.

[71] Patricia Holt, Oral History of C+Bus: the construction and building unions’ superannuation fund, NCA Study, Monash University, 1996, pp. 22-25 and 192-200; Canberra Times, 4 October 1984, p. 1.

[72] An issue sidestepped in the leaflet for Denise Bishop’s campaign in the 1973 NSW Branch elections, MLK 04268.

[73] Australian, 17 April 1974 , p. 16; a photograph in Sydney Morning Herald, 5 February 1974 , p. 2; for Mundey’s dismissal, J. Owens to Civil & Civic, 23 November 1974 , MLK 04264.

[74] Australian, 5 September 1972, p. 9; the Communist organiser, Herbert Moxon, had refused to take on the Party Secretaryship in South Australia in 1929 because he would have to support himself as a labourer “an occupation that has always been repugnant to me.” (Moxon to CPA General Secretary, 31 May 1929, quoted in Playford, Thesis, p. 82.)

Back to A framework of flesh

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