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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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Central co-ordination

Calls for a central body to co-ordinate unionism throughout Australia had been made since the 1880s.[39] A federation of Australian trade unions, with its weapons of the sectional and general strike, was seen as a means for rapid improvement of industrial conditions.[40] The formation of such a body proved difficult. Attempts such as the Australasian Labour Federation, which began in Queensland in 1889 as a restructuring of the Brisbane Trades and Labor Council[41] and extended nominally in 1894 to New South Wales,[42] had faded by the turn of the century.

The 1902 Interstate Congress of Trade Unions (continuing the practice of the Intercolonial Congresses) also called for a federation of Australian trade unions. Its scheme was for a very loose federation of the State trades and labor councils, with a Federal Council as supreme policy-maker.[43] This scheme was not implemented until the 1913 Interstate Congress and even then the new Federal Grand Council of Labour, which was to meet annually, had only limited powers over the State trades and labor councils.

In 1914 a rival Australian Labour Federation was inaugurated. Unlike the Grand Council it directly represented some of the biggest unions in Australia: including the Australian Workers' Union, railway, maritime and mining unions. Its main objective was as a central strike co-ordinator.[44] Moves to closer unionism continued to be hindered by competing schemes.

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© 1994 Print Edition pages 8 - 9, 2002 Online Edition
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