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Trade Union entry United Tobacco Operatives Union (1904)

September 1904
October 1904
Trade Union (State or Territory only)


The Victorian Tobacco Operatives' Association, sometimes known as the Operative Tobacconists' Union, was formed on the 14 May 1884 with the intitial purpose of pursuing an eight hour day for its members. By the turn of the century the Tobacco Operatives' Association sought to overcome the constant battle of trying to better the pay and conditions of its members by uniting the various trades of the tobacco industry into the one union. This union was called, initially in September 1904, the United Tobacco Operatives' Union but was changed one month later to the United Tobacco Operatives' Industrial Union.

Depleted membership and the associated financial concerns were compounded by the sudden monopolisation of the industry. Tobacco companies grew throughout the entirety of the nation. What had once been a Melbourne based company became merely a branch of a national organisation. State unions with their differing goals and concerns could not adequately combat this growth beyond state borders. Together with the Tobacco Workers' Union of South Australia, the United Tobacco Operatives' Industrial Union formed the Federated Tobacco Workers' Union of Australia in November 1904 in an attempt to match the monopolising nature of the tobacco companies. In 1908, the Union incorporated the Female Tobacco Operatives’ Union, which had hitherto, existed independently and the New South Wales Tobacco Workers' Union.

Renamed the Federated Tobacco & Cigarette Workers' Union of Australasia in 1937, due largely to the increasing popularity of cigarettes on the tobacco market, it was changed slightly again in 1962 to the Federated Tobacco & Cigarette Workers' Union of Australia. An amalgamation with the Cigar Workers' Union in 1969 prompted another change of name, this time to the Federated Tobacco & Cigarette & Cigar Workers' Union of Australasia.

Since the inception of a tobacco workers' union in 1884, it has been the popular course of the union to favour collective bargaining over the employment of the governments' federal arbitration apparatus. However, by 1979 the union no longer saw any tangible benefits in continuing this course, and so registered under the federal industrial relations legislation, as the Federated Tobacco Workers’ Union of Australia. A year later, in 1980 its first federal award was made.

Ross G. Elford