Labour History

Arbitration and the Workplace: A Case Study of Metters’ Stovemakers, 1902-22

Labour History (2006), 90, (1), 43–60.

Abstract

An analysis of regulatory structures and work practices at Metters’ Sydney stove works in the early decades of the twentieth century suggests the relationship between arbitration and workplace industrial relations was complex and contradictory. Awards of the New South Wales arbitral system simultaneously supported management prerogative and collective workplace organisation and bargaining at Metters. The actual impact of arbitration was shaped by the interaction of management, unions and rank and file workers. The article explores the influence of the NSW arbitration system on work organisation and management strategy, workplace union organisation and rank and file militancy. It is argued that arbitration did not determine or dominant workplace industrial relations at Metters but neither was it irrelevant. While on the surface it appears that various arbitral awards assisted worker control, a closer examination reveals the importance of workplace militancy, often independent of the union, in achieving this control.

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Author details

Cockfield, Sandra

Table of Contents

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