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Parties to the Award Australian Trade Union Archives Home Page
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Parties to the Award

Federal industrial relations legislation

Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904

Industrial Relations Act 1988

Registered organisations

Amalgamation trends
Federation of trade unions
Central co-ordination
One Big Union
The push to 'super unions'

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Amalgamation trends

As the pedigree charts demonstrate, Australian trade unions have been amalgamating with each other both before and throughout the period of the federal industrial relations system. Prolific use of terms such as 'Federated', 'Federation' or 'Amalgamated' in their names testifies to the merged nature of many of the unions and employer associations which obtained federal registration after 1904.

This section will examine some of the amalgamation movements which have influenced the structure of Australian trade unions. Once again only a basic background will be given to matters which have already been extensively covered in other literature, such as the 'federation' and 'One Big Union' movements. A closer examination will be made of the recent 'super union' reorganisation campaign.

Federation of trade unions

At the second Intercolonial Trades Union Congress, held in Melbourne in 1884, there was a general consensus that unions of the same trade from separate colonies should federate in order to achieve unity and strength.[34] Many delegates to the Congress gave examples of how earlier moves to intra and intercolonial federation had strengthened, and in some cases saved their organisation.[35]

During 1880s and 1890s intercolonial federations of building trades, printers, locomotive enginemen, shearers, metal workers, maritime and wharf labourers' unions were formed.[36] However, by 1900 the majority of unions were still confined to a single colony. Those which did operate on an intercolonial basis were almost all the result of federations between unions initially organised within a single colony.[37]

The newly federated Commonwealth of Australia and the introduction of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in 1904 saw further federations of state trade unions take place. With the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration generally well regarded by trade unions, many federated for the purpose of obtaining registration under it.[38]

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© 1994 Print Edition pages 7 - 8, 2002 Online Edition
Published by The University of Melbourne Archives, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher