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Waterfront Labour Relations in New Zealand, 1953 to 2000

Research in Maritime History, 25

2003

January 1st, 2003

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This study is bookended by two major events in New Zealand’s maritime history. The first is the 1951 waterfront dispute that led to the dissolution of the Waterside Workers’ Union (WWU) and the creation of twenty-six port unions in its place. The second is a mirror event occuring in 2001, where a reconsitituted WWU and two other unions competed for members, leading to widespread protest. Though historians have treated the events leading up to 1951 with interest, little attention has been given to the fifty-year period between events, a history which this journal attempts to fill. Author James Reveley considers the following questions in his history of union-management interactions. Firstly, why employer prerogative did not increase after the 1951 dissolution of the WWU; second, how the unions regained power so quickly; and third, why the WWU’s substantial industrial power was so friable during the 1990s. The conclusion assesses the relationship between government and unions, and believes that union response when facing globalisation within maritime industries, which alliances they will form, for example, will have a significant impact on the future direction of maritime activity in New Zealand.

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