Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History

Class, Skill and Control in a Southern City: The Case of the Dunedin Branch of the ASE c. 1880-1920

Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History (2010), 99, (1), 77–96.

Abstract

Skilled workers and their unions have long held a central place in New Zealand labour history. While there has been much written about the economic position and industrial and political mobilisation of the skilled, less is known about their lives in terms of marital and residential differentiation and segregation, and their activities in voluntary associations. This article adopts a micro-historical approach and uses Hobsbawm’s ‘aristocracy of labour’ criteria to describe and interpret the economic and social position of members of the Dunedin branch of a New Zealand trade union, the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, for skilled engineering workers. In doing so, it makes reference to a large body of work that examines the process of class formation in one of New Zealand’s oldest industrial suburbs.

Access Token
£25.00
READ THIS ARTICLE
If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Endnotes

1.J. Martin, ‘Labor history in New Zealand’, Country Report, International Labor and Working-Class History, vol.49, 1996, p.166. Google Scholar

2.Ibid., p.171;M. Nolan andP. Walsh, ‘Labour’s leg-iron? Assessing trade unions and arbitration in New Zealand’inP. Walsh(ed.), Trade Unions, Work and Society: The Centenary of the Arbitration System,Dunmore Press,, 1994. Google Scholar

3.E. Olssen andB. Scates, ‘Class formation and political change: a trans-Tasman dialogue’, Labour History, no.95, 2008, p.6. Google Scholar

4.See, for example,E. Olssen, Building the New World: Work, Politics and Society in Caversham, 1880s-1920s,Auckland University Press,, 1995;L. Richardson, Coal Class and Community: The United Mineworkers of New Zealand,Auckland University Press,, 1995;M. Nolan, Kin: A Collective Biography of a Working-Class New Zealand Family,Canterbury University Press,, 2005. Google Scholar

5.ASE, Dunedin Branch District Committee Minute Book, 7 November 1907; K. Buckley, The Amalgamated Society of Engineers in Australia,Department of Economic History, ANU,, 1970, p.179. Google Scholar

7.Buckley, The Amalgamated Society of Engineers, p.89. Google Scholar

8.Much of the extent research on Dunedin is summarised in Olssen, Building the New World. Google Scholar

9.Ibid., pp.69, 187. Google Scholar

10.B. Roth, Advocate, Educate, Control: the History of the New Zealand Engineers Union, 1863-1983,New Zealand Engineering, Coachbuilding, Aircraft, Motor and Related Trades Industrial Union of Workers,, 1985. Google Scholar

11.The period of militancy was between 1908 and 1913.E. Olssen, ‘Some reflections about the origins of the ‘Red’ Federation of Labour, 1909-1913’, inE. Fry(ed.), Common Cause: Essays in Australian and New Zealand Labour History,Allen & Unwin/Port Nicholson Press,, 1986, pp.27–41. Google Scholar

12.Between one and eight per cent; an average of 3.6 per cent of the Dunedin membership was on sickness benefit at any one time between 1885 and 1921. Full members with long-term or serious illness were usually placed on the superannuation benefit. Calculations taken fromMonthly Reports. SeeS. Ryan, Men of Metal: The Amalgamated Society of Engineers in Dunedin c1874-1923, MA thesis,Department of History, University of Otago, 1997, for details of calculations. See alsoH. Southall andE. Garrett, ‘Morbidity and mortality among early nineteenth-century engineering workers’, Social History of Medicine, vol.4, no.2, 1991. Google Scholar

13.E.J. Hobsbawm, ‘The labour aristocracy in nineteenth-century Britain’, inE.J. Hobsbawm, Labouring Men: Studies in the History of Labour,Weidenfeld and Nicolson,, 1964, p.273;R.Q. Gray, The Aristocracy of Labour in Nineteen-Century Britain, c. 1850-1900,Macmillan,, 1981;R. Penn, Skilled Workers in the Class Structure,Cambridge University Press,, 1985;G. Crossick, An Artisan Elite in Victorian Society: Kentish London 1840-1880,Croom Helm,, 1978. Google Scholar

14.B. Maddison, ‘The skilful unskilled labourer’: the decline of artisanal discourses of skill in the NSW Arbitration Court, 1905-15’, Labour History, no.93, 2007, p.76. See alsoHobsbawn, Labouring Men;Crossick, An Artisan Elite;Gray, The Aristocracy of Labour. Google Scholar

15.Penn, Skilled Workers in the Class Structure, pp.23-24, 26-27. Google Scholar

16.J. Barbalet, ‘The “labor aristocracy” in context’, Science and Society, vol.51, no.2, 1987, p.133. Google Scholar

17.SeeGray, The Aristocracy of Labour, p.22, for the claim of industrial pacifism.H. Pelling inPopular Politics and Society in Late Victorian Britain,Macmillan,, 1968, rejects the alleged political conservatism and industrial pacifism of the labour aristocracy. Google Scholar

18.The exception isR. Steven, ‘Towards a class analysis of New Zealand’, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Sociology, vol.14, 1978, pp.113-29. Google Scholar

19.Gray, The Aristocracy of Labour, pp.4, 43. Google Scholar

22.Department of Labour, Journal,, vol.24, December1916. Google Scholar

23.G.W. Clinkard, ‘Wages and working-hours in New Zealand, 1897-1919’, New Zealand Official Year Book,, 1919, pp.898-900. Google Scholar

24.ASE, District Committee Minute Book, 27 November 1917; ASE, Australasian Council, Sydney, Monthly Report, March1917, p.93. Google Scholar

25.Hobsbawm, ‘The labour aristocracy in nineteenth-century Britain’, p.290. Google Scholar

26.M.N. Galt, Wealth and Income in New Zealand, c. 1870-1939, PhD thesis,University of Wellington, 1985, p.220. Google Scholar

27.Clinkard, ‘Wages and working-hours in New Zealand, pp.896-97. Google Scholar

28.Olssen, Building the New World, especially ch. 6,‘The Hillside Workshops and the Metal Trades’, and pp.238-41. Google Scholar

29.SeeR. Markey, ‘The aristocracy of labor and productive re-organisation in NSW, c. 1880-1900’ Australian Economic History Review, vol.XXVIII, no.1, 1984, pp.49-52. Google Scholar

31.Department of Labour, Journal, February 1909, vol. xvii; vol. xviii, February 1910, September 1910. Google Scholar

32.SeeJ.E. Martin, ‘Unemployment, government and the labour market in New Zealand, 1860-1890’, New Zealand Journal of History, vol.29, no.29, 1995, p.174; andH.O. Roth, ‘Unemployment among New Zealand carpenters, 1876-1900’, Australian Economic History Review, vol.18, no.1, 1978. Google Scholar

33.See ASE, Monthly Reports1921, 1922. Google Scholar

34.Penn, Skilled Workers in the Class Structure, p.24. Google Scholar

35.ASE (New Zealand Section)Rules, 1916 (in possession of author). Illness or failing eyesight were common reasons for claiming the superannuation benefit. See, for example, ASE Minute Book 19 July 1901, 4 December 1903, 18 December 1903. Google Scholar

36.SeeOlssen, Building the New World. Google Scholar

37.S. Ryan, ‘Friendly Societies: Caversham and South Dunedin’, Caversham Working Paper 1997-1, 1997. Google Scholar

38.Membership figures taken fromMonthly Reports. Google Scholar

39.A similar pattern was evident among members of the ASC&J. SeeOlssen, Building the New World, ch. 5. Google Scholar

40.It was estimated that a British ASE member in the 1880s would pay 3-4 per cent of his income in fixed contributions to the union as well as numerous special levies. SeeT. Lummis, The Labour Aristocracy 1851-1914,Scolar Press,, 1994, p.49. Google Scholar

41.Penn, Skilled Workers in the Class Structure, p.25. Google Scholar

42.TheCyclopaedia of Otago, vol.4,Otago and Southland, pp.321-27, details examples of journeymen becoming masters. Google Scholar

44.Maddison, ‘The skilful unskilled labourer’;ASERules, 1916. Google Scholar

45.C. More, ‘Skill and the survival of apprenticeship’inS. Wood(ed.), The Degradation of Work? Skill, Deskilling and the Labour Process,Hutchinson,, 1983, pp.109-22.R. Penn, ‘Skilled manual workers in the labour process, 1856-1964’, inS. Wood(ed.), The Degradation of Work? Skills, Deskilling and the Labour Process,Hutchinson,, 1982, pp.90, 92, 106;Penn, Skilled Workers in the Class Structure, ch. 8,‘Skilled manual workers in the labour process’. Google Scholar

46.SeeJ. Bathgate, An Illustrated Guide to Dunedin, and its industries: with notices of several of the chief towns in Otago,Fergusson and Mitchell,, 1883, pp.105-10. Google Scholar

47.Olssen, Building the New World. Google Scholar

48.ASE Minute Book, 6 June 1890, 4 July 1890. ASE DistrictCommitteeMinute Book, 6 September 1890. These amalgamations were never achieved during the time period covered in this article. Google Scholar

49.J.B. Jefferies, The Story of the Engineers 1800-1945,, 1946;Buckley, The Amalgamated Engineers in Australia. Google Scholar

50.For a more detailed discussion of this, seeRyan, Men of Metal, pp.150-51. See alsoOlssen, Building the New World, ch. 6,‘The Hillside Workshops and the Metal Trades’. Google Scholar

52.ASE District Committee Minute Book 7, November 1907. Although he did not take up his duties until 1909 and became organiser for all of NZ, and, for a time, parts of Australia.Roth, Advocate, Educate Control, pp.25, 28-29. Google Scholar

54.In 1920, this process was reversed and machinists reverted to the MWA.Awards, vol.xviii, 1917. Google Scholar

56.E. Olssen andJ. Brecher, ‘New Zealand and United States labour movements: the view from the workshop floor’, inJ. Phillips(ed.), New Worlds? The Comparative History of New Zealand and the United States,Stout Research Centre,, 1989, pp.106-07. Google Scholar

57.SeeNew Zealand Awards, Recommendations, Agreements & c, made under Conciliation and Arbitration Act, vol.8, 1907, p.808, for reduction of the term of apprenticeship. The employers successfully persuaded the judge to reverse his decision and ratio was amended to one apprentice to every journeyman, ASEMonthly Report, March 1915 Google Scholar

59.SeeOlssen, Building the New World, ch. 5,‘The Carpenters’. Google Scholar

60.Penn, Skilled Workers in the Class Structure, p.24. Penn uses ‘class analysis and marital endogamy to investigate the degree to which economic structurations of class has been translated in parallel patterns of social boundedness’, Ibid., p.152. Gray’s research into the Victorian labour aristocracy found that‘evidence of participation in voluntary organisations and marriage points to the existence of considerable social segregation within the manual working class’,Gray, The Aristocracy of Labour, p.114. Google Scholar

61.Details of Marriage Registers used are in Ryan, Men of Metal. We need to be aware of the distortions of such a sample because we are comparing the fathers, who were ‘middle aged’ or older, with sons in their mid- to late 20s or older, seeE. Olssenet al.,‘The social mobility of men in Caversham, 1902-1922: a macro analysis’, Working Paper,University of Otago, 1996, p.29. Google Scholar

62.Ibid. Google Scholar

63.Crossick, An Artisan Elite in Victorian Society, p.117. Google Scholar

64.Olssenet al.,‘The Social Mobility of Men in Caversham’. In 1902-11, downward mobility was 6.9 per cent, and in 1911-22 7 per cent. Google Scholar

65.E. Olssen, An Accidental Experiment? The Social Bases of an Egalitarian Society, Hocken Lecture 1,University of Otago,, 2007. Google Scholar

66.ASE Minute Book, 30 September 1898, 7 January 1916.E. Olssen andH. James, ‘Social mobility and class formation: the worklife social mobility of men in a New Zealand suburb 1902-1928’, International Review of Social History, vol.44, 1999, p.432. Google Scholar

67.Crossick, An Artisan Elite in Victorian Society, p.117. Google Scholar

68.SeeE. Olssen, The Red Feds: Revolutionary Industrial Unionism and the New Zealand Federation of Labour 1908-1914,Oxford University Press,, 1988. Google Scholar

69.Crossick, An Artisan Elite in Victorian Society, pp.118-19. Google Scholar

70.ASE Dunedin Branch [Names &] Residence Book, 1917;W.A.V. Clark, Dunedin in 1901: A study in historical urban geography, MA thesis,University of Canterbury, 1961, p.40. Google Scholar

71.Olssen, Building the New World, p.123; ASE, Dunedin Branch Residence Book, 1917. Google Scholar

72.Olssen, Building the New World, p.124;Clark, Dunedin in 1901, p.91;S. Kennedy, ‘“Really Concerned Men” : a history of the Dunedin labourer and his union 1905-1911’, research essay,University of Otago, 1978pp.47-49; ASE Dunedin Branch, Residence Book, 1917. Google Scholar

73.Clark, Dunedin in 1901, p.92;Olssen, Building the New World, pp.32, 30; ASE Dunedin Branch Residence Book, 1917. See alsoC. Griffen, ‘The new world working class-suburb revisited: residential differentiation in Caversham, New Zealand’, Journal of Urban History, vol.27, no.4, 2001, pp.420-44. Google Scholar

74.John Stone’sDirectory of Otago and Southlandfor 1919 and 1920 shows that 19.6 per cent of the membership had changed place of residence since 1917. Google Scholar

75.Kennedy, ‘Really Concerned Men’, p.46. Google Scholar

76.Olssen, An Accidental Experiment?, p.10. Google Scholar

77.Griffen, ‘The new world working-class suburb revisited’, pp.430-31. Google Scholar

78.Gray, The Aristocracy of Labour, pp.125-27;Crossick, An Artisan Elite in Victorian Society, pp.175, 185. Google Scholar

79.Olssen, An Accidental Experiment?;M. Nolan, ‘The reality and myth of New Zealand egalitarianism: explaining the pattern of a labour historiography at the edge of empires’, Labour History Review, vol.72, no.2, 2007. Google Scholar

80.ASE Minute Book, 21 August 1916;Olssen, Building the New World, p.218; ‘Minutes of the Conference of Unions held under the auspices of the Otago Labour Council in the Trades Hall, Dunedin, 20 February 1918, Paul Papers 357 (Hocken Library). Google Scholar

81.For the WEA, see ASE Minute Book, 24 April 1915, 21 May 1915;R. Tubbs, ‘Mark Silverstone and the Dunedin Labour Movement’,History Research Essay, University of Otago, 1981, p.35. For the technical college see ASE Minute Book, 28 July 1916, 26 May 1919. Google Scholar

82.Ryan, ‘Friendly Societies: Caversham and South Dunedin’;E. Olssen, ‘Friendly Societies in New Zealand, 1840-1990’, inM. van der Linden(ed.), Social Security Mutualism: The Comparative History of Mutual Benefit Societies,Peter Lang,, 1996. See alsoOlssen, Building the New World, pp.36-38. Google Scholar

83.J.H. Angus, City and Country: change and continuity. Electoral Politics and Society in Otago, PhD thesis,University of Otago, 1976;Olssen, Building the New World, chs 7 and 8. Google Scholar

84.J.D. Salmond, The New Zealand Labour Movement from The Settlement to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1840-1895, PhD thesis,University of Otago, 1923-24, p.332. Google Scholar

85.Olssen, Building the New World, pp.155, 161. Google Scholar

86.ASE Minute Book, 12 August 1881, 18 November 1881. For voting along class lines, seeAngus, City and Country, pp.369, 384, 388. Google Scholar

87.Report of the proceedings of the first New Zealand Trades and Labour Congress,8-13 February Dunedin, 1885.Hocken Library; ASE Minute Book, 21 August 1885, 2 October 1885. Google Scholar

90.Ibid., 24 August 1892, 21 June 1902;Olssen, Building the New World, p.177. Google Scholar

91. ASE Monthly Report, November1912, pp.22-23. Google Scholar

93. ASE Monthly Reports, October-December1913; ASE Minute Book, 21 November 1913, 5 December 1913, 19 December 1913. Google Scholar

94. ASE Monthly Report, November1912, June1914, August1914. Google Scholar

95.Olssen, The Red Feds. Google Scholar

96.SeeRyan, Men of Metal, ch. 4,‘Arbitration, Amalgamation, Class and Politics 1907-1914’. Google Scholar

97.Griffen, ‘The New World Working Class Suburb Revisited’, p.423. Google Scholar

98.ASE Minute Book, 11 June, 9 July 1917; seeRyan, Men of Metal, pp.203-04for discussion of details of political candidates in 1919. Google Scholar

99.Olssen, The Red Feds, pp.219-20. Google Scholar

100.Galt, Wealth and Income in New Zealand, pp.221, 223. Google Scholar

101.Olssen, Building the New World, p.242; on the issue of dilution, ASE District Committee Minute Book, 11 December 1897. Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Details

Author details

Ryan, Shaun