1904 Apr Trades and Labour Annual Conference at Christchurch passed a resolution by 16 votes to 3 that "conference is of the opinion that an Independent Labour Party should be formed immediately". The new party (called the Independent Political Labour League) put up candidates for the 1905 General Election, but they all got thrashed (only one got enough votes to even get his deposit back).

1906 Nov 14 First illegal strike since the introduction of the ICA Act. Auckland tram drivers went on strike to get a member's job back, after he was dismissed because he was an active unionist and Trades Council delegate. The men won their case in less than half a day, and other unions took notice.

1908 Feb 27 Start of the Blackball Mine Strike. The mine manager sacked several men who had dared to ask for a 30-minute meal break instead of the 15 put in place by management, and the men voted to go on strike. This was a deliberate challenge to the ICA Act and the Arbitration Court responded by going to Greymouth and fining the union 75 Pounds. After three months, the company gave in, reinstated the sacked men and allowed a 30-minute break.   No irony seen at the time by the Judge, who having just finished telling the miners that 15 minutes for crib was quite reasonable, declared court adjourned for lunch for two hours.   Industrial Workers of the World (the "Wobblies") established in New Zealand.

1911 The Miners' Federation, formed after the success at Blackball, evolved into the Federation of Labour, as it tried to involve other than miners' unions. Among the first of the new recruits was another ancestor of ours, the Auckland General Labourers' Union.

1911 Oct The Labourers' Union conducted its first strike against the Auckland Drainage Board for contracting work out. Sound familiar? The union pulled all its members on public works out (about 600) and after four days, they won the strike. In December, the union put in claims for a new award, and the employers, mostly local bodies, dragged out the negotiations for several months. Secretly, at the same time, the employers persuaded a group of the members to break away and form a new organisation: the Auckland and Suburban Local Bodies Labourers' Union. This new union registered under the ICA Act and came to an agreement with the employers, who then refused to deal with the old union.

1912 May 13 Another breakaway of 30 engine drivers started the Waihi Strike, when the miners demanded that the engine drivers rejoin the Miners' Union. This strike was probably the bitterest in our history, and the only dispute which  led directly to the death of a worker. Even now, after 85 years, some people in Waihi will still not speak to members of other families.

1912 Nov 12 Scabs stormed the Miners' Union Hall at Waihi and Frederick John Evans, one of the defenders, was killed by a policeman's baton. The scabs drew up a list of strikers, who were forced to leave town with their families under threats of further violence. Hundreds of families: men, women, and children, left town (mainly for Auckland) where a union meeting called on November 30th officially ended the strike.

1913 The newly formed United Federation of Labour was almost wiped out in a conflict which began from two small, isolated disputes, which began almost simultaneously in October. Huntly miners went on strike when two of its executive were sacked, and watersides in Wellington went on strike when a company refused to pay travelling time to shipwrights. The strikes soon spread to other ports and mines and the federation was forced to take a lead in the dispute.

Employers and government saw this as a great opportunity to crush the "Red Feds." The main weapons used were the registration of scab unions, enrolling farmers as special constables and scab labour, and the use of police and armed forces to protect the scabs. Hundreds of mounted farmers armed with batons (the strikers called them "Massey’s Cossacks") rode into town to reopen the ports. In Auckland, the entry of the "specials", caused a general strike, the first in New Zealand, which lasted for more than a week.

In Wellington, the specials were involved in daily street fighting, which was likened to a Mexican civil war. Altogether, almost 16,000 workers (mainly miners, seamen, and watersiders) were involved -- almost a quarter of the union members -- but as the struggle dragged on, economic hardship and government pressure wore them down. A general strike was called for 10th of November, but it was not supported and on the following day, several of the strike leaders were arrested.

1913 Dec 21 The federation was forced to call an end to the strike, but most watersiders found that their jobs had been taken by new men. The federation survived, but without the backbone of the miners, seamen, and watersiders, it was no longer an effective fighting unit.

1914 Union membership is about 70,000 (about 23% of the workforce)

1916 Jul Labour Party formed.

1917 Many working people were against conscription for the First World War, which was seen by many as: workers from one country being sent to kill workers from another country for the benefit of the employing class. Miners elected to go on a go-slow to show their opposition to conscription, and the government replied by arresting union leaders and prosecuting them. This lead to a general coal strike, which lasted for three weeks, until the government brought peace by exempting miners from conscription and promising not to proceed with the arrested men.

1918 Despite being called agents of the Kaiser and/or Bolsheviks, Holland, Fraser, and Semple won by-elections to become the first Labour members of parliament.

1919 Labour won eight seats in the general election and almost 25% of the vote.   New Zealand Alliance of Labour established by militant unions, such as the watersiders, miners and seamen.

1920 ANZAC Day introduced.

1921 Oct The system of wage increases through the arbitration court was proving to be working against workers as the post-war boom bubble burst. The seamen went to the court seeking a wage increase, and produced evidence of the enormous profits made by the ship owners during the war years and immediately after. The court ignored their case, and not only cut seaman's wages, but cut conditions in some 55 instances.

Communist Party of NZ formed

1923 Jan The government suspended the manning laws and allowed employers to employ unqualified scab labour to man ships. The union was forced to call off the strike and concede defeat. Freezing companies found they could easily replace union workers with scabs. West Coast mine employers locked out their workers for four months, before they too abandoned the struggle, which smashed their national organisation.

1930 Seamen and watersiders unite to prevent the unloading of the Japanese-registered Brisbane Maru, until concessions were won and the company renounced the use of non-union crews.

1932    Unemployed riots occur in Auckland, Wellington, and Dunedin over relief work, living standards and political liberties.   This lead to the introduction of the Public Safety Conservation Act, which would be used to introduce martial law in 1951. Christchurch tram strike over wage cuts and sackings led to riots.

1933 Unemployed workers stage hunger marches in major cities from Gisborne to Wellington. 

1935 Nov First Labour Government comes into power and introduced (among many other things) a minimum wage, a 40-hour week, and compulsory unionism.

1936 Easter Monday becomes a holiday.

1937 Apr Federation of Labour established in Wellington -- in the form which it stayed in until voluntarily wound up and replaced by the CTU. Union membership soared from 80,929 in December 1935 (16%) to 232,986 in December 1937 (46%).

1942 Tramways Union wins equal pay for women conductors in the first successful equal pay case.

1944 Labour government introduces two weeks annual leave for workers.

1948 Mar 10 900 members of our union went on strike at Maraetai, because the project engineers believed that Len Clapham was a "troublemaker, an agitator, and a disturber of workmen". Clapham, secretary of the Mangakino branch of the NZ Workers Union, was a returned serviceman who had been wounded in Italy and was for a time president of the local RSA. He was, however, a member of the Communist Party, and the engineers wanted him transferred to Auckland and out of their hair. Bob Semple, who was minister of works at the time, went on record about the "trial of strength between communism and the government", but after the strike had been going for a month, both sides agreed to arbitration. The tribunal agreed to Clapham's removal, but the men then elected another communist, Don Ross, as their new secretary, and to avoid further victimisation, they made the secretary's job a full-time paid position.

1949 Mar 25 The carpenters was another union which was punished for having communist leadership. Following a go-slow at some companies (the tactic had been used successfully the previous year to get concessions from the employers) the employers locked out all carpenters, whether they had been on the go-slow or not. On this date, the Labour Minister of Labour de-registered the union, cancelled its award, and the master builders started a new union. For some time, the old and new unions existed side-by-side, but then the government passed a new law, which forced all carpenters to join the new union.

Election of the first National Party Government (1949-1957).

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