BLF - DOCUMENTS - TIMELINE
from We Built This Country –
Builders’ Labourers and their Unions, by Humphrey McQueen,
Ginninderra Press, Port Adelaide, 2011.
‘Free’ workers are controlled by Master and Servant Acts;
labourers are sent to prison if they do not work hard enough.
Sydney workers form unions.
Mutual Protection Society in Sydney defends wages and demands work.
Friendly Society of Carpenters and Joiners in Sydney.
Half a million workers join the Grand Consolidated Trades Union.
Six farm labourers – the ‘Tolpuddle Martyrs’ – are transported
for resisting a wage cut.
navvies build roads and 2,000km of railways.
Free settlers at Perth, Melbourne and Adelaide.
Wool overtakes whaling products as largest export earner.
End of transportation of convicts to the east coast, and to Hobart in
of towns as ports provides work for labourers.
Military coup against Governor Bligh; wealthy rebels give each other
A prison moves towards self-government.
of the press is won by editors going to prison.
elections for local councils in Sydney and Melbourne.
against squatters who are grabbing more land.
UK-based Progressive Society of Carpenters and Joiners forms a branch in
First unions for labourers, for example, United Hodcarriers Society and
the United Labourers Protection Society in NSW, and a United Labourers’
Friendly Society in Melbourne.
Builders’ Labourers’ Society in Adelaide.
UK-based Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners has branches
April 1856 Melbourne stonemasons march through city to demand shorter
hours. They will win by ‘physical force if necessary’, says their
leader James Stephens.
hit back with piece rates to get as much value as possible in the eight
hours. They also import German masons, but the newcomers strike to get
the same conditions as the locals.
Eight-Hour Day Committee in Melbourne.
UK building workers are locked out for demanding a nine-hour day.
Labourers in Brisbane are among the first unskilled to win the
eight-hour day because of the heat and glare.
Eight-hour parades begin in Melbourne and Sydney.
is still on a six-day week, if they are lucky enough to find a week’s
work. Most lose about a fifth of their time ‘following the job’, or
being stood down in bad weather or waiting for materials.
Melbourne Trades Council in its own Hall.
Sydney Trades and Labor Council.
Amalgamated Miners’ Association in Victoria.
first Inter-colonial Trades and Labor Congress, Sydney.
population goes from 54,000 to 225,000. Melbourne from 29,000 to
adds 400,000 dwellings. Almost half are weatherboard.
for skilled labour is higher than the supply of men who have served
apprenticeships; labourers therefore ‘jump up’ to work in the craft
building in rural districts means work for navvies.
Adult male suffrage for Legislative Assemblies, and secret ballot.
Legislative Councils protect capitalists.
Stonemason Charles Don elected to Victorian parliament.
Failure to divide the land feeds into the Kelly rebellion in central
Sydney Building Trades’ Federation excludes labourers.
Builders’ Labourers’ Union in Melbourne.
Builders’ Labourers’ Society loses strike in Perth for ten shillings
Builders’ Labourers’ Union in Sydney breaks from ULPS after it takes
and Contractors Associations and Master Builders’ Associations form.
moves towards making employers liable for workplace injuries.
Strike by 4,000 tailoresses in
Melbourne prevents cut in piece-rates.
Intercolonial Trades and Labor Congress in Melbourne.
Melbourne boot-makers act against outwork and sweating.
Amalgamated Shearers’ Union.
Australian unions send £30,000 to striking London dockers.
70,000 union members in six colonies.
Capitalists organise Employers’ Unions and Pastoralists’ Union.
1890 Maritime strike defeated.
shearers’ strike in Queensland. Troops sent against shearers; union
leaders to prison.
Broken Hill strike.
Shearers’ strike in NSW.
union movement is crippled.
Railway boom across Melbourne suburbs.
support manufacturing in Victoria.
Islanders work sugarcane fields.
Broken Hill Pty established.
Government debts double.
Bust is worst in Melbourne where banks and land sharks control
leads to one in three being jobless in Victoria. Wages are cut from six
shillings a day down to one or two shillings for labourers.
Gold rushes in West Australia.
Queensland makes a grab for Papua.
Australia’ as national ideal.
Labor parties form.
World’s first Labor government in Queensland.
The six colonies federate to strengthen British empire. Radicals oppose
undemocratic Constitution; they want an independent republic.
Perth labourers start a new union, with 29 members.
Melbourne drive for 44-hour week.
September 1910 Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia Labourers’
Unions sign on to Australian Builders’ Labourers’ Federation (ABLF);
25 November, Tasmania joins.
January 1911 ABLF registers with Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and
Hannah, Victorian and Federal secretary, brings navvies and labourers’
assistants into the one union.
slow revival of building and construction.
by brick-makers and contractors.
governments limit their success through Wages Boards and Industrial
Australian Workers Union is formed.
Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration set up.
Its second President, Justice Higgins, awards basic wage for a family of
draws more workers into unions; numbers increase fivefold until a third
of workers are members.
Seven-year drought at its worst. Sheep numbers fall by a third and the
wheat crop is only one-tenth of usual.
government income is cut and fewer public works, despite higher jobless
Commonwealth tariffs for manufacturers.
Minority Commonwealth Labor government.
‘White Australia’ enforced by mass deportations.
Votes for European women.
Victorian Socialist Party spreads Marxist ideas of class struggle and
Industrial Workers of the World agitates among navvies.
Ben Mulvogue as Victorian Secretary.
Percy J Smith as Federal and Victorian secretary.
Building Trades’ Federations in Victoria and Queensland.
1913 Perth labourers register with the State Court of Arbitration as the
Metropolitan Builders’ Labourers’ Union of Workers; February 1914,
its 81 members get an award.
1913 ABLF federal award with a common rate for all grades of labourers
and a 20 percent loading for lost time. 1914 High Court strikes down the
compensation clauses. 1917 Privy Council in London throws out appeal
from the Masters against any award.
to 1916 membership up from 3,000 to 8,000.
with United Labourers’ Union of navvies influenced by the IWW.
Fails to merge with the AWU.
Beats back lock-out in Hobart.
Licensing of scaffolders in Queensland.
BLNews in Victoria banned for
its Anti-Slavery issue against conscription.
November 1917 Queensland branch registers with State Court, John William
Abbiss as secretary.
Work for labourers in building camps for troops.
in mines and on wharves.
Brisbane general strike and repressive Industrial Peace Act.
Opposition to time-and-motion studies in NSW railways leads to a general
Maritime and meat-workers stop.
Broken Hill miners locked out for 18 months.
War disrupts shipping.
BHP steel works opens at Newcastle.
Inflation reaches 17 percent, and again in 1919; wages fall behind.
Unemployed up to 11 percent.
a Labor majority in both houses of Federal Parliament, but unable to
alter the Constitution through referenda.
Workers resist compulsory military training for all young males.
Labor Party leaders support the war to the ‘last man and the last
volunteers for Australian Imperial Force, with 60,000 dead and as many
Progressive legislation in Queensland.
Labor Party splits over conscription for overseas service.
and 1917 plebiscites reject conscription but voters back win-the-war
repression under War Precautions Act puts 100 militants in prison.
Strikes in Adelaide and Melbourne.
very keen on a single industry union.
Queensland gets permission to leave the Federation to join an industrial
union, but never happens.
Barwon bridge case (Vic.) gives coverage of some bridges against AWU.
Queensland joins three other building unions to stop for a 40-hour week;
after defeat, branch is de-registered and punished by losing coverage
north of Mackay to the AWU.
very militant while Tasmania stagnates.
and New South decline, as does the Federal body.
WA BL union has 750 members but still limited to Perth and Fremantle.
Half of the workforce is in a union.
disputes in mining, maritime and railways.
Crimes Act attacks union rights.
of Commonwealth Arbitration Court with bosses’ men.
Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) formed.
‘Dog Collar’ on the wharves to protect scabs.
Police kill workers on Melbourne wharf and at Rothbury in Hunter Valley.
balance-of-payments problems and war debts.
borrow under slogan of ‘Men, Money and Markets’.
Sydney Harbour bridge.
‘Picture Palaces’ for talkies provide work, as do insurance
offices and hospitals;
department stores are rebuilt.
becomes a structural material.
Communist Party established but divided, and even weaker during the late
State Labor government in Queensland turns reactionary.
NSW Compensation Act brings benefits through Government Insurance
Offices in Labor States.
Huge drop in membership; Queensland falls from 2,375 to 859;
is down from 752 to 64, but back up to 570 in 1939.
Victoria under petty corruption of secretary Dick Loughnan.
Queensland taken over by AWU low lifes.
Plan’ from the Communists for a single industrial union, which only
New Federal Award brings very little change from 1913; it moves from a
common rate to two classifications, and provides a 15 percent loading
WA building trade award after a strike.
Federal Council fails to meet.
1937, Communist leadership in mining, maritime and manufacturing unions.
‘Dole-queue patriots’ at Port Kembla (NSW) block export of pig iron
to Japanese militarists.
of sacrifice’ means that a judge on the Arbitration Court loses only
as much as a labourer earns.
cuts and lower government spending make the depression worse.
A third of workforce is out of a job.
figures never below 10 percent.
1930s Public works such as hospitals provide work.
will not lend to manufacturers, hence, little factory construction.
Local fascists in secret armies such as the New and Old Guards in NSW.
Governor Game sacks NSW Labor premier Jack Lang.
of Communist Party.
against fascism, whether here or abroad.
SA membership up to 1,000.
Communist Paddy Malone secretary in Victoria.
NSW under control of the gangster Fred Thomas, who is also federal
secretary from 1942.
Bill Tryrell as right-wing Queensland secretary.
Australia still going it alone with 1,450 members.
Right-wing takeover in SA with Fred Shaw as secretary.
Shortage of 300,000 houses. Rationing of building materials.
Snowy Mountains hydro-electricity and irrigation schemes.
break Red control, Industrial Groups are directed by the pro-fascist B A
Santamaria, and supported by Roman Catholic church, the security police
and the US embassy.
Building Workers Industrial Union (BWIU) formed from carpenters and
Australian unionists help Indonesians to drive out Dutch.
Federal deregistration of BWIU.
Troops break coal strike.
fears of return to depression.
shortages restrict revival after 1945.
of ‘full employment’, usually under two percent.
Immigration scheme contracts newcomers to work for two years as
expands, for example, the first Holden in 1948.
Federal Labor government.
governments in several States.
1949 Reactionary coalition under R G Menzies.
Right sends ‘Speed’ Morgan to Tasmania as secretary.
Victoria wins a Building Industry Agreement, setting pattern for deals
outside the Arbitration system.
Left wins NSW leadership, but loses in 1958 to no-hopers.
to 1954 Building and construction workforce grows by 40 percent, but by
only 12 percent between 1954 and 1961.
increase in labour productivity.
contractors here (Utah, Braun and Kaiser).
Europeans labour in construction and on building sites.
Melbourne ICI building above 40m.
First shopping centre, Chermside (Brisbane).
Work starts on Sydney Opera House.
begin, for example, Torbreck apartments in Brisbane.
Altona petro-chemical plants under construction.
built by owners and their friends.
1954, 115,000 war-service homes have been constructed since 1920.
Housing shortage down to 80,000.
Construction peaks at 94,500.
1961, 2.5m. dwellings, nine out of twenty are weatherboard.
and apartments more popular, from a mere 46 new ones in 1946 to 15,600
in 1963-4, and then to 28,200 in 1964-5.
Commonwealth government prepares to intern Red union leaders under
Return of the ASC&J as right-wing opponent of de-registered BWIU.
New Act divides Arbitration Commission from Industrial Court to enforce
Freeze on the Federal basic wage hurts labourers most.
immigration brings half a million, one-third British.
investments increase in every corner of the economy.
of national independence in Asia, of communism, and of Japan.
involved in peace movements and in opposition to the bomb: ‘Peace is
Formal alliance with the US of A.
Peace treaty with Japan.
Defeat of ban on Communist Party in a September referendum.
Petrov Royal Commission looks for a Red spy ring.
and 1957 Labor Party splits, and the Catholic Right forms DLP.
Federation comes back to life after forty years of being little more
than a name.
Splits in world Communism affect the building unions and conflicts
inside the ABLF.
Left wins most positions in NSW; Mick McNamara as secretary with 720
votes out of 1,326.
A new style of federal Award built on classifications.
Queensland secretary Farrell forced to resign. New generation of
officials with Jim Delaney as secretary.
branch transformed by resource projects in the central coal basin and by
high-rises in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast.
1964, NSW still unable to pay its own way; its officials want to merge
with the BWIU.
West Australia joins the Federation; of 922 ballot papers, 288 are
returned with 216 of in favour; the branch is still pretty helpless.
methods and materials, mostly around concrete, challenge carpenters over
form- work and plasterers about finishing-off.
Unable to register new name to match these changes.
Les Robinson replaces no-hoper secretary in South Australia; by 1971,
membership up to 3,000.
Jack Mundey as NSW secretary.
Breaking concrete pours as a tactic.
Labourers’ margins up to 90% of carpenters.
in Victorian Building Industry Agreement.
Two percent of building and construction workforce are women.
Australia Square tower in Sydney completed.
Building Owners’ and Managers’ Association established.
Only one new worker in three joins a union.
of jobs in mines and on wharves.
Southern Europeans as factory fodder sparks mass action at
Rising tide of militancy among manufacturing unions against merging of
margins into basic wage.
1968 Penal powers see twenty-nine unions fined 800 times.
1969 Secretary of Victorian Tramways, Clarrie O’Shea, gaoled for not
paying fines; one million stop in support.
US embassy backs R J Hawke for ACTU presidency.
Slow moves towards equal pay for women.
Growth fairly steady until 1974.
affluent society arrives, at last, thanks to hire purchase and mining
sprawl and high-rises in CBDs.
as major trading partner for raw materials.
exports drive up the Australian dollar to leave manufacturing and
agriculture less competitive.
A lottery of death to conscript twenty-year olds.
Labor wiped out at the federal elections for opposing Vietnam war.
Gough Whitlam takes over federal labor leader with policies for urban
Surge of radical actions, sparked by student protests.
black power as Gurindji walk off and demand land rights.
Ninety percent vote for Commonwealth powers over Aborigines.
Struggle for higher margins leads to conflict with tradesmen.
Gallagher takes over as Victorian secretary on death of Paddy Malone.
‘Green bans’ begin in Melbourne with gaoling of Gallagher.
Employers use civil law to replace penal powers; December 1972, SA
branch secretary Robinson and organiser Ron Owens gaoled for contempt.
with Plasterers’ who are backed by the BWIU.
methods and materials re-define skills.
Federation Reports 16,609 members to ACTU.
No start’ lifts membership while most unions shrink.
NSW strike by building trades boosts injury pay.
for permanent employment for all building workers fails, yet secures
many of the conditions attached to it, such as long-service leave.
control strongest around inner Sydney.
Change of name to Australian Building and Construction Employees and
Builders’ Labourers’ Federation.
Gallagher elected to ACTU executive as the building industry
representative; a sign that the labourers are challenging tradesmen on
Western Australia re-organised with Kevin Reynolds as secretary.
June 1974 Federation de-registered.
1974 Federal intervention in NSW; branch under secretary Les Robinson,
and Steve Black from 1977.
June 1976 BLF re-registered.
action speeds up compensation pay-outs.
Tasmanian secretary ‘Speed’ Morgan dies and replaced by Jim Bacon
Loy Yang power house and Omega disputes.
June 1981 High Court Omega decision favours Federation.
and Black push for coverage of all metal towers.
Scissors-lift dispute sees branch expelled from Melbourne Trades Hall
1973 Opera House opens.
Mainline goes bust, followed by other builders, e.g., K D Morris in
Fifty-two (177m) floors of Nauru House, tallest building in Melbourne
Centrepoint Tower in Sydney.
The second oil-price increase leads to infrastructure projects with
power stations and aluminum smelters.
of white-collar militants as teachers and nurses strike.
Immigrant workers take mass action at Ford plant, Broadmeadows (Vic.)
Four times as many days lost from disputes as in 1967.
Secondary boycott legislation and Trade Practices Act used against
against uranium mining and for Aboriginal land rights.
oil price shocks in 1973 and 1979.
in the exchange rate removes much of the effect of tariff protection.
Huge job losses.
share up in the first half of the 1970s.
weeks annual leave and holiday loading.
Unemployment at 5 percent.
of stagflation – combining unemployment with inflation.
Whitlam government is progressive on health, education and urban
Government plans to control of minerals and energy with petro-dollar
Independence for Papua New Guinea.
November 1975 CIA agent and governor-general John Kerr sacks Whitlam.
Fraser destroys Medibank.
Federation leads opposition to the later Accords.
Gallagher removed as Victorian and Federal secretary.
John Cummins as Victorian secretary.
Victorian branch down to 120 members.
July 1982 RC report tabled.
October 1982 Criminal proceedings begin.
1983 Developers plead guilty and get fined.
1983 Federation promises to behave and de-reg. is shelved.
1985 Gallagher found guilty and sentenced to thirteen years.
NSW branch de-registered.
April 1986 Federation, Victorian and ACT branches deregistered and
Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia retain State
De-registrations extended for five years.
improvement in health and safety laws.
boom adds building jobs.
Property boom collapses.
expansion of subbies – so-called independent contractors and labour-hire
NSW Royal Commission exposes more corruption among Master Builders.
New Right with H R Nicholls Society to destroy collective bargaining.
Business Council of Australia.
Attacks on electricity linesmen, meat workers and plumbers.
ACTU Congress swallows Australia
Reconstructed and ‘Strategic Unionism’.
of fight among most unions under the Accords.
Accord process. Middle 80 percent of workers lose real wages.
ALP floats dollar and de-regulates the financial sector to encourage
schemes to make money out of money.
scandals from ALP administrations in WA, SA and Victoria.
Fears of a banana republic.
of casualisation for women and loss of full-time jobs for males. Endless
re-training schemes. Long-term unemployed put on disability pensions.
1987 stock-market collapse.
sells Commonwealth Bank and QANTAS.
Parties implode; decline of class politics generally.
1994 BLF joins Construction Division.
continues in Queensland within the Construction Division.
officials take leadership in WA, SA and Victoria.
dominated by the tradesmen from the BWIU.
Cole Royal Commission into Building and Construction Industry reports in
Building and Construction Industry Improvement Act turns union action
into a criminal offence.
Building and Construction Commission get police-state powers, maintained
under the ALP’s Gillard.
scandal around Hardie Bros in mass murder for profit.
Ark Tribe’s acquittal in SA is a fitting close to a century of
struggle for health and safety.
IR Act under Howard leaves only twenty allowable matters and limits
organising on sites.
Construction workers play leading role in defeating waterfront
Percentage of workforce in unions down to one in four, mostly in
government sector; half are women.
Frontal attack to abolish unionism by WorkChoices.
Gillard’s FairWork Australia Act retains much of WorkChoices, almost
no right to strike and violates other ILO standards.
Gillard’s ALP undermines OH&S and Workers’ Compensation with
threats of ‘harmonisation’ between State laws.
demand outruns supply.
of public housing for all except some welfare tenants.
Job losses in building and construction from economic crisis warded off
by government spending on energy-saving, schools and first-home loans.
of socialist ideals and Marxian analysis.
Howard becomes prime minister.
‘Your Rights at Work’ campaign defeats Coalition.
ALP scrapes back.