Labour History

“We Never Recovered”: The Social Cost of the 1951 New Zealand Waterfront Dispute

Labour History (2015), 108, (1), 89–101.

Abstract

In July 1951, 15,000 New Zealand watersiders, miners, freezing-workers and seamen returned to work after being locked-out or on strike, but their lives, and the lives of those dependent on their income, did not return to normal. For five months, most workers and their families had had to borrow money and leave bills unpaid in order to survive, and they needed to pay their debts. This article examines the social cost of the 1951 waterfront dispute. It concentrates on strike debt, and the long shadow that debt cast on family and community relationships. This article argues that many of the costs of an industrial dispute are not paid until after it ends, but in contrast to union’s collective concern about costs during the dispute, costs after the dispute are privatised and treated as the concern of individual families.

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Footnotes

*The author would like to thankLabour History‘s two anonymous referees. Google Scholar

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19.For an example of how rare see, Report of E. G. Ward, Lyttelton, 1 April1951, ADMO-21007–25/9/20/2, Part 1, ANZ. Google Scholar

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23.E. Williamson, Relief Committee Report, July1951, 94-106-11/06, Roth Papers, ATL. Google Scholar

24.Scott, 151 Days, 173. Just over £20,000 was distributed from national office to the branches during the dispute, not the £50,000 Scott suggested: [Rough Accounts], New Zealand Waterside Workers’ Union, 1951, 88–311, Hill Papers, ATL. Google Scholar

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26.Report of A. Johnston, Greymouth, 30 March1951, ADMO-21007-W5595–25/9/20/13, ANZ;Andrea Hotere, “The 1951 Waterfront Lockout in Port Chalmers”(BA Hons thesis,University of Otago, 1989), 92. Google Scholar

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30.See,Norah Holland, “Some Aspects of Home-Making,”(Master of Home Sciences thesis,University of Otago, 1950). Google Scholar

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34.NZWWU Auckland Branch, Minutes of Special Members Meeting, 6 March, 8 March, 14 May1951, 94-106-11/01, Roth Papers, ATL. Google Scholar

35.John James Mitchell interview with Douglas Crosado, Ray Grover and Bert Roth, 1977–88, OHInt-0219/1, OHC-ATL. Oral histories of Wellington relief committee members include similar accounts:Trade Union History Project, “A Dissenting New Zealand: A Seminar on the Life of Rona Bailey,”December1993, audio recording, OHC-01451; Ted Thompson interview with Cath Kelly, 1990, OhInt-0112/3, OHC-ATL. Google Scholar

36.Unfortunately no further information, such as how many members were behind on their bills, is available. General Meeting of the Council, 13 June1951, Wellington City Council Minute Books, vol. 59, 00166:0:57, Wellington City Archives. Google Scholar

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40.Ian Church, interview with author, 11 February2011. Google Scholar

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86.Ibid.Martin’s family was not the only to make this decision; Charles Bullock became a mining deputy so that he would not have to go on strike again: Cora and Charles Bullock interview with Jamie Mackay, 23 March1992, OHInt-0020/13, OHC-ATL. Google Scholar

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Author details

Millar, Grace