Labour History

The State, Labour Management and Union Marginalisation at Electrolytic Zinc, Tasmania, 1920-48

Labour History (2011), 101, (1), 53–70.


While there has been considerable debate about arbitration’s role in framing union strategy and tactics, its impact on managerial strategy and subordinating labour has been less explored. Electrolytic Zinc had a strategy of using the industrial regulation system, particularly the Tasmanian wages boards, and participative structures to marginalise trade unions for 15 years. However, these measures failed to completely suppress unionism and encouraged the emergence of company based-unionism. Whilst an initial attempt to form a new companybased union failed, the second was successful and its emergence and form emerged from the interplay between the arbitral system and Electrolytic Zinc’s participative structures.

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


1.Erik Eklund, ‘“Intelligently directed welfare work”?: labour management strategies in local context: Port Pirie, 1915-29’, Labour History, no.76, May1999, pp.130-31;W.A. Howard, ‘Australian trade unions in the context of union theory’, Journal of Industrial Relations, vol.19, no.3, September1977, pp.255-73;Peter Gahan, ‘Did arbitration make for dependent unionism? Evidence from historical case studies’, Journal of Industrial Relations, vol.18, no.4, December1996, pp.648-98;Peter Sheldon, ‘The missing nexus? Union recovery, growth and behaviour during the first decades of arbitration: towards a re-evaluation’, Australian Historical Studies, vol.16, no.104, 1995, p.437;Sandra Cockfield, ‘Mobilising at the workplace: state regulation and collective action in three workplaces, 1900 to the 1920s’, Labour History, no.93, November2007, p.51. Google Scholar

2.Peter Burnham, ‘The politics of economic management in the 1990s’, New Political Economy, vol.4, no.1, 1999, pp.37-54;John Kelly, Rethinking Industrial Relations: Mobilization, Collectivism and Long Waves,, 1998;Robert Connell andTerry Irving, Class Structure in Australian History,Longman Cheshire,, 1982;Paul Edwards, Conflict at Work: A Materialist Analysis of Workplace Relations,Basil Blackwell,, 1986;Jonathan Zeitlin, ‘Shop floor bargaining and the state: a contradictory relationship’, inSteven Tolliday andJonathan Zeitlin(eds), Shop Floor Bargaining and the State: Historical and Comparative Perspectives,Cambridge University Press,, 1985;Kenneth Walker, Australian Industrial Relations Systems,Oxford University Press,, 1970;John Lund andChristopher Wright, ‘State regulation and the new Taylorism: the case of Australian grocery warehousing’, Relations Industrielles/Industrial Relations, vol.56, no.4, Fall2001, pp.747-67. Google Scholar

3.Tom Sheridan, ‘“Aspects of decision making in a monopoly” BHP and the 1945 steel strike’, Australian Economic History Review, vol.22, no.1, 1982, pp.1-27;Greg Patmore, ‘“American hustling methods” – the Lithgow Small Arms Factory 1912-1922’, Labour History, no.67, November1994, pp.42-55;Edwards, ‘Conflict at work’;Howard Gospel, Markets, Firms and the Management of Labour in Modern Britain,Cambridge University Press,, 1992. Google Scholar

4.Michael Quinlan, ‘Managerial strategy and industrial relations in the Australian steel industry 1945-1975: a case study’, inMark Bray andVic Taylor(eds), Managing Labour? Essays in the Political Economy of Australian Industrial Relations,MacGraw-Hill,, 1986, p.22;Christopher Wright, The Management of Labour: A History of Australian Employers,Oxford University Press,, 1995, pp.31-32;Greg Patmore, ‘Union birth, growth and death: the impact of the state, management and community at the Lithgow Ironworks, 1900-1914’, Journal of Industrial Relations, vol.46, no.1, March2004, p.31. Google Scholar

5.Greg Patmore, Australian Labour History,Longman Cheshire,, 1991, pp.149-50;Wright, The Management of Labour, p.33. Google Scholar

6.Peter Cochrane, Industrialization and Dependence,University of Queensland Press,, 1980, p.79;Lloyd Robson, A History of Tasmania: Volume II Colony and State from 1856 to the 1980s,Oxford University Press,, 1991, pp.294-300; BHAS Records, WS Robinson Papers, EZ Co., March 1937, University of Melbourne Archives (hereafter UMA);Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited, Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited Risdon Works Tasmania Description of Activities,Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited,;Peter Richardson, ‘The Origins and Development of the Collins House Group, 1915-1951’, Australian Economic History Review, vol.27, no.1, 1987, pp.3-29. Google Scholar

7.Robert Connell andTerry Irving, Class Structure in Australian History,Longman Cheshire,, 1980, pp.274-75;Tim Rowse, Australian Liberalism and National Character,Kibble Books,, 1978;Alison Alexander, A Heritage of Welfare and Caring: The EZ Community Council, 1918-1991,Pasminco Metals-EZ,, 1991, pp.29-31;Wright, The Management of Labour;Erik Eklund, ‘Managers, workers, and industrial welfarism: management strategies at ER&S and the Sulphide Corporation, 1895-1929’, Australian Economic History Review, vol.37, no.2, July1997, pp.137-57;Eklund, ‘Intelligently directed welfare work’, p.131;Ruth Barton, ‘Communal life, common interests and healthy conditions’: industrial welfarism at Electrolytic Zinc, Hobart 1918-27’, The Past is Before Us: The Ninth National Labour History Conference,University of Sydney, 30Juneto2July2005;Richard Gillespie, ‘Accounting for lead poisoning: the medical politics of occupational health’, Social History, vol.15, no.3, October1990, pp.303-31. Google Scholar

9.Philip Molhuysen, ‘The Tasmanian Wages Board system’, Journal of Industrial Relations, vol.14, 1972. Google Scholar

10.Ray Wettenhall, A Guide to Tasmanian Administration,Platypus Publications,, 1968, p.202;Stuart Macintyre andRichard Mitchell, ‘Introduction’, inStuart Macintyre andRichard Mitchell(eds), Foundations of Arbitration,Oxford University Press,, 1989, pp.6-7;Orwell De Foenander, Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration in Australia,The Law Book Co. of Australia,, 1959, p.160. Google Scholar

11.E.J.R. Heyward, ‘The Tasmanian Wages Board system’, The Economic Record, vol.12, 1936, p.113; Trades Hall Council Minutes, 19 March 1921, Noel Butlin Archives Centre (hereafter NBAC). Google Scholar

12.EZ Records, A/2-1, File Meetings of General Staff Meetings Melbourne, Meeting No 19, 18 January 1920, Archives Office of Tasmania (hereafter AOT);Brian Kennedy, ‘Gepp, Sir Herbert William (1877-1954)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol.8,Melbourne University Press,, 1981. Google Scholar

13.Quinlan, ‘Managerial strategy’. Google Scholar

14.C.R. Baker, The Human Story of Risdon, Typescript, p.47,EZ Library,. Google Scholar

16.Baker, The Human Story, pp.47-49;Alison Alexander, The Zinc Works: Producing Zinc at Risdon 1916-1991,Pasminco Metals – EZ,, 1992, pp.16-17;Alexander, The Zinc Works, p.56. Google Scholar

19. Tasmanian Mail, 24March1921;The World, 18March1921;The World, 21May1921;Tasmanian Mail, 24March1921. Google Scholar

20. The World, 21May1921. Google Scholar

21.Ibid., 23 May 1921. Google Scholar

22.Ibid., 28 May 1921. Google Scholar

23.Ibid., 16 June 1921. Google Scholar

24. The Mercury, 2June1921; Colin Fraser papers, Box 1/33/8, Notes by Hon. G. Swinburne on Visit by Mr Colin Fraser and Himself to Risdon, 1 to 6 February 1923, UMA. Google Scholar

25.15 CAR 1921, Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association of Australasia v Albany Bell and others, pp. 905-06; EZ Records, A 11/3, Chief Costs Clerk to Industrial Department, 3 October 1921, AOT;The World, 23 August 1921; EZ Records, A/11-3, Hutchin to Secretary ASE, 5 August 1921, AOT;The World, 23 August 1921. Google Scholar

28.Ibid.;EZ Records, A/11-3, Affidavit of G. Hargreaves in ASE Case No. 113, 10 March 1922, AOT. Google Scholar

30.Ibid.;EZ Records, A 11-3, File Industrial ASE No 1, Extract of transcript of notes of ASE and Adelaide Steamship Co before Justice Powers, 21 June 1922, AOT. Google Scholar

32. The Mercury, 23September1922. Google Scholar

33. The Mercury, 5December1922;The World, 5December1922, p.3;The Mercury, 9December1922;The World, 12December1922, p.6;The Mercury, 12December1922;The World, 13December1922. Google Scholar

35.EZ Records, A/11-3, Hutchin to Colleyshaw, Cadburys, 21 December 1922. AOT;Tom Sheridan, Mindful Militants: The Amalgamated Engineering Union in Australia, 1920-1972,Cambridge University Press,, 1975;The World, 29December1922. Google Scholar

36. AEU Reporter, no.8, August1925, NBAC. Google Scholar

37.EZ Records, A/47-2, Meredith to EZ Melbourne, 26 July 1927, AOT;AEU Reporter, no.12, December1925, AOT; EZ Records, A/75-1, Affidavit of OW Hawkins Against AEU, 1931, AOT; LID 1/40 EZ Wages Board, 9 November 1925, AOTAEU Reporter, no.1, January1924. Google Scholar

38.Richard Davis, ‘Charles Ernest Culley, (1877-1949)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol.8,Melbourne University Press,, 1981, p.161. Google Scholar

40.EZ Records, A/18-2, G W Mahoney to Gepp, 28 August 1923, AOT;Alexander, The Zinc Works, pp.37-38;The Mercury, 26September1924; EZ Records, A/40-2, File Industrial Builders Labourers, 1926, AOT. Google Scholar

41.19 CAR 1924, Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association of Australasia v A1 Amalgamated and Others, p. 628; 19 CAR 1924, Federated Engine Drivers, p. 629; 19 CAR 1924, Federated Engine Drivers, p. 706;Michael Roe, ‘H.W. Gepp: his qualification as chairman of the Development and Migration Commission’, Tasmanian Historical Research Association Papers and Proceedings, vol.32, no.3, September1985, p.101. Google Scholar

44.Ibid. Google Scholar

45. The Mercury, 18June1927;The Mercury, 2July1927;‘Zinc Workers – AWU at Risdon’, The Voice of Labour, 18July1927. Google Scholar

50.Ibid. Google Scholar

51. The Mercury, 8July1936;The Mercury, 10July1936; Minute Book of Meetings of ZWU, Minutes, 13 July 1936, AWU. Google Scholar

52.Minute Book of Meetings of ZWU, Minutes, 20 August 1936, AWU; Minute Book of Meetings of ZWU, Monthly Meeting, 5 October 1936, AWU;Alexander, The Zinc Works, p.58; Minute Book of Meetings of ZWU, Monthly Meeting, 7 December 1936, AWU; The ZWU First Annual Report, 29 September 1937, AWU; Minute Book of Meetings of ZWU, Minutes Management Committee Meeting, 24 May 1937, AWU; Minute Book of Meetings of ZWU, Monthly Meeting, 2 August 1937, AWU;Alexander, The Zinc Works, pp.59-60. Google Scholar

55.Alexander, A Heritage, p.78; Minute Book of Meetings of ZWU, Monthly Meeting, 8 November 1937, AWU; Minute Book of Meetings of ZWU, Monthly Meeting, 7 March 1938, AWU;Alexander, The Zinc Works, p.83;Alexander, A Heritage, p.91; ZWU Executive Committee, Management Committee and Wages Board Minute Book 1942-, Executive Committee, 22 June 1948, AWU. Google Scholar

56.Eklund, ‘Intelligently Directed Welfare Work’, p.130. Google Scholar

57.Burnham, ‘The politics of economic management’, p.41. Google Scholar

58.Quinlan, ‘Managerial strategy’, p.26. Google Scholar

59.Walker, Australian Industrial Relations Systems. Google Scholar

60.Howard, ‘Australian trade unions’. 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

 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


Author details

Barton, Ruth