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The Locomotive Enginemen A History of the West Australian Locomotive Engine Drivers', Firemen's and Cleaners' Union von Oliver, Bobbie (eBook)

  • Erscheinungsdatum: 15.04.2016
  • Verlag: BookBaby
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The Locomotive Enginemen

This book explores the social phenomenon of the rise and decline of trade unionism in 20th century Australia through the history of one particular union, Western Australia's longest running industrial union (1898-1999), the West Australian Locomotive Engine Drivers', Firemen's and Cleaners' Union [WALEDF&CU]. The union's history provides a means for examining the influence of the British industrial diaspora on the development of Australian trade unionism; unique features of the Australian industrial system, and reasons for the mid-20th century dominance of unionism, and its relatively sharp decline a since the 1970s. Chapters contain discussion of the union's formation; how its progress in obtaining recognition and improved wages and working conditions for members compared with similar unions in Eastern Australia and Britain; the impact of two world wars the Great Economic Depression of the 1930s, and the effects of arbitration, industrial action, changing technologies, privatisation and amalgamation. In the concluding chapter, the differences that enabled the British footplate union, ASLEF, to survive while the WALEDF&CU was forced to amalgamate with other transport unions are examined, and the author concludes that, along with the debilitating effects of mass redundancies sparked by rationalisation policies in the rail industry, disunity within the rank and file was a major cause of the union's demise.


    Format: ePUB
    Kopierschutz: none
    Seitenzahl: 200
    Erscheinungsdatum: 15.04.2016
    Sprache: Englisch
    ISBN: 9780987567093
    Verlag: BookBaby
    Größe: 6772kBytes
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The Locomotive Enginemen

Chapter 1 Beginnings: "No easy task" The life of a railwayman, 1890s There was no union [in Western Australia] to stand up for the rights of the [railway] worker and no Labour party to appeal to. These conditions started small group meetings in 1897 at Fremantle, Perth, Northam, Southern Cross and Kalgoorlie. The groundwork of the union was done at those group meetings. It was no easy task and by no means popular to talk unionism in those days. An atmosphere of military rule overhung workers under the Crown. Any person suspected of ambition towards establishing a Union was called an agitator - an enemy to progress and to his country. Workers could be dismissed without a reason being given; the foreman's word was law. 1 Thus wrote Western Australia's first labour historian, William Somerville, of conditions for railway workers in the State, even on government-owned lines, in the 1890s. The life of a railway man, whether driving or firing on the footplate of a steam locomotive, was arduous and dangerous; responsibility far outstripped the remuneration, and change was slow, whether in Australia or Britain, with which numerous comparisons can be drawn when considering the development of footplate unions. 2 More than two decades later, in May 1920, Jack Bromley, Secretary of the British footplate men's union, the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen [ASLEF], addressed a meeting of the National Wages Board, putting a case for engine drivers' wages to be increased to two shillings and sixpence an hour. He eloquently described what life was like for enginemen employed on some of the busier routes of Britain's numerous privately owned railway companies. During a busy time of the day, the route would carry 2-3,000 people. If you pass [a] signal [at danger] because you have a broken gauge glass, or a backdraught from the firebox...and cause an accident that loses a life, you stand to be charged with manslaughter. If you have an accident but no one is killed, you stand before an enquiry in a quiet room like this and it is quoted against you that in the hurly-burly and turmoil of your work you will be in trouble if you cannot show that there are extenuating circumstances. You take this risk, you take a train there and back passing all those signals, and for that work you are given half-a-crown. You would not do it for that, but that is what we are asking - 2s. 6d. an hour for the responsibility, the skill, the danger, and the serious nature of our occupation. 3 No other machine carries the mystique and romance of the locomotive steam engine. In the thousands of railway histories produced throughout the world, much space is devoted to these 'fire-breathing' machines that seemed imbued with a life of their own, and to their designers and designs, production and capacities, the systems upon which they ran, and the economic contribution of the railways to the capitalist era. Much less has been written of the men (and sometimes women) who worked in one of the world's most dangerous jobs, standing, for hours at a stretch, exposed to extremes of heat and cold, on a constantly shifting footplate, controlling hundreds of tons of locomotive and rolling stock, often at high speeds, and with responsibility for not merely their own lives and freight, but those of hundreds of passengers. As Ralph Harrington has observed, the engine driver in literature is frequently either absent or distant, or valorised unrealistically as a 'heroic' figure with almost mystical powers. 4 Even less has been written about their attempts to organise themselves to improve wages and working conditions. 5 One aspect of railway history can hardly be understood without the consideration and understanding of the others; to devote so much research

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