Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History

Mutualism beyond the “Mutual”: The Collective Development of a New Zealand Single Industry Town Hospital

Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History (2017), 112, (1), 45–60.


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This paper discusses mutualism and its links to labourism. It is argued that rather than being contradictory, mutualism is incorporated into union activities in a range of ways beyond formal mutual and cooperative institutions, dependent on contextual differences in the labour movement. Using the case of mutual union and company involvement in the development of a public hospital in a single industry town in New Zealand during the 1960s and 1970s, we find evidence that the goals of management and the unions converged despite tensions at the site of production, and notions of cooperation for the benefit of workers and the wider community were brought to bear. As the workplace was an essential part of the town, the union’s interests were not limited to the workplace, but formed part of the social fabric of the town. Through this case, we see that engaging in mutualistic activities does not always demonstrate a weakening union agenda, but rather a method unions may employ towards improved worker welfare. Additionally, this example reminds us that union members are members of wider communities, families and societies, and that the boundaries between worker welfare in the workplace and those outside the workplace are not always easily drawn.

Footnotes

*The authors would like to thank Labour History’s two anonymous referees, the editors of this thematic, and the other participants of the associated workshop held at Macquarie University. Google Scholar

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Author details

Hurd, Fiona

Dyer, Suzette