Closer unity in the Queensland trade union movement 1900-1922

Armstrong, John Brian (1975). Closer unity in the Queensland trade union movement 1900-1922 M.A. Thesis, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, The University of Queensland. doi:10.14264/uql.2015.179

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Author Armstrong, John Brian
Thesis Title Closer unity in the Queensland trade union movement 1900-1922
School, Centre or Institute Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Institution The University of Queensland
DOI 10.14264/uql.2015.179
Publication date 1975
Thesis type M.A. Thesis
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Supervisor x
Total pages 289
Language eng
Subjects 390116 Labour Law
Formatted abstract
      Closer Unity in the Queensland Trades Union Movement 1900-1922 is a descriptive and analytic account of the evolution and development of the structural forms of Queensland trades union organisations in the first two decades of the twentieth century. While the thesis concentrates mainly on the formation of a stable, widely acceptable form of central organisation for the whole state, it also analyses and delineates the re-organisation of newly formed and already established unions on a more closely-knit and more centralised basis. The central theme of the thesis explores the phenomenal growth in union membership and the number of unions, the major social, industrial, economic and political crises in Queensland (but in some instances such as World War 1 on a broader scale) and their relationship to the amount of and type of experimentation in form and structure in the Queensland trades union movement.

      The first chapter is concerned with the fundamental doctrine of closer unity that “unity is strength”, the origins and trends of this phenomenon in Great Britain and the United States of America and the development of these trends in the Queensland context. Particular emphasis is given to the influence of crises during times of union expansion on the amount of experimentation with new union structures. This "crisis growth" theory is applied to the circumstances of the Queensland movement during the first two decades of the twentieth century. The close relationship between the advocates of closer unity and the Queensland Parliamentary Labor Party is discussed as a unique factor influencing the trends within the Queensland closer unity movement. The criteria for designating unions as being militant or non-militant are re-defined in terms of the perceptions of the contemporary trades union movement. In the first decade and a half of the twentieth century, particularly, trades unionists perceived militancy in different terms to those used by some later historians of the Australian trades union movement.

      Chapters two, three and four trace the revival of unionism which occurred in Queensland and the parallel attempt to achieve a maximization of the strength of the expanding union movement by unifying trades unions under the umbrella of the Australian Labour Federation, The culmination of these attempts was the staging in 1910 and 1911 of the first trades and labour congresses to be held in Queensland, There is a re-interpretation of the causes of the union revival and the rapid re-growth of trade unionism in the state during these two decades. In accounting for the rate and extent of the union revival, much greater significance is placed on the influence of the 1905-7 split in the PLP and the role of professional union officials, especially during the first decade.

      The expansion and influence in the union movement of the Amalgamated Workers Association of Queensland and the consequent demise of the AIF are described and analysed in chapters five and six, A major concern of chapter six is the significance of the 1911 sugar strike and the 1912 tramway strike in deciding what direction the closer unity movement would take in the second decade. Chapter seven continues to analyse the importance of the AWA in the Queensland union movement. Consequently, it traces and analyses the significance of the MA's amalgamation with the Australian Workers Union in 1913 and the new amalgamation's attempts to become the One Big Union,

      Chapter eight is concerned with the influence on the Queensland closer unity movement, of the first world war and the social, political, economic and industrial crises which occurred in Australia as a result of the war. It accounts for Queensland's rejection of the OBU as a suitable structural form for achieving closer unity and emphasises Queensland's preference for the Labour Council structure.

      The lead given to the Queensland trades union movement by the Brisbane trades unions in achieving closer unity is outlined in the last chapter. In describing the development of the movement that lead in 1922 to the re-establishment of the Brisbane Trades and Labour Council, the basic divisions that developed within the Queensland union movement and in the total labour movement in the state are revealed. The trades union movement is shown to be divided on the basis of a new definition of militancy based, chiefly, on alignment or non-alignment with the Queensland Labor Party.

      Finally, in the conclusion an evaluation is made of the significance of the developments and experimentation of the period 1900-1922 in establishing the future patterns of trades union structure and organisation in Queensland.
Keyword Labor unions -- Queensland

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