The Birth of an Organising Union

Celebrating 125 years of organising transport workers in New South Wales

Celebrating 125 years of organising transport workers in New South Wales


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<strong>The</strong> <strong>Birth</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>an</strong><br />

Org<strong>an</strong>ising <strong>Union</strong><br />

Celebrating 125 years <strong>of</strong> org<strong>an</strong>ising<br />

tr<strong>an</strong>sport workers in New South Wales<br />

Mark Hearn

<strong>The</strong> <strong>Birth</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>an</strong><br />

Org<strong>an</strong>ising <strong>Union</strong><br />

Celebrating 125 years <strong>of</strong> org<strong>an</strong>ising<br />

tr<strong>an</strong>sport workers in New South Wales<br />

Mark Hearn

National Library <strong>of</strong> Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry<br />

Author: Hearn, Mark, 1959-<br />

Title:<br />

<strong>The</strong> birth <strong>of</strong> <strong>an</strong> org<strong>an</strong>ising union / Mark Hearn.<br />

ISBN:<br />

9780646925639 (paperback)<br />

Subjects: Trolly, Draymen <strong>an</strong>d Carters’ <strong>Union</strong>--History.<br />

Tr<strong>an</strong>sport Workers’ <strong>Union</strong> <strong>of</strong> Australia. New South Wales<br />

Br<strong>an</strong>ch--History.<br />

Tr<strong>an</strong>sport workers--Labor unions--New South Wales--History.<br />

Labor unions--New South Wales--History.<br />

Other Authors/Contributors:<br />

Tr<strong>an</strong>sport Workers’ <strong>Union</strong> <strong>of</strong> Australia. New South Wales<br />

Br<strong>an</strong>ch, issuing body.<br />

Dewey Number: 331.881138809944<br />

Printed by: Novocastri<strong>an</strong> Print M<strong>an</strong>agement<br />

Design: Southl<strong>an</strong>d Media Pty Ltd.<br />

Published by the Tr<strong>an</strong>sport Workers’ <strong>Union</strong> <strong>of</strong> New South Wales,<br />

31 Cowper St Parramatta 2014<br />

©Tr<strong>an</strong>sport Workers’ <strong>Union</strong> <strong>of</strong> New South Wales, 2014

Foreword<br />

In 2013 the Tr<strong>an</strong>sport Workers’ <strong>Union</strong> celebrated 125 years <strong>of</strong> org<strong>an</strong>ising tr<strong>an</strong>sport<br />

workers in New South Wales. <strong>The</strong> <strong>Birth</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>an</strong> Org<strong>an</strong>ising <strong>Union</strong> has been produced<br />

in recognition <strong>of</strong> that achievement.<br />

<strong>The</strong> Trolly, Draymen <strong>an</strong>d Carters’ <strong>Union</strong> was first formed in 1888. However<br />

the young org<strong>an</strong>isation was not able to survive the harsh tests <strong>of</strong> economic<br />

depression, <strong>an</strong>d hostility from employers <strong>an</strong>d governments during the early<br />

1890s.<br />

<strong>The</strong> <strong>Birth</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>an</strong> Org<strong>an</strong>ising <strong>Union</strong> focuses on the union’s revival in 1901, a year<br />

that marks the reorg<strong>an</strong>isation <strong>of</strong> the union that became the modern Tr<strong>an</strong>sport<br />

Workers’ <strong>Union</strong>.<br />

1901 also provides a vivid snapshot <strong>of</strong> the working lives <strong>an</strong>d living conditions<br />

faced by trollymen, draymen <strong>an</strong>d carters <strong>an</strong>d their families in the rough <strong>an</strong>d<br />

tumble conditions around Sydney’s Darling Harbour precinct, the area <strong>of</strong> West<br />

Sydney, as it was then known, <strong>an</strong>d where the union first org<strong>an</strong>ised its members.<br />

1901 was also a time when Australia <strong>of</strong>ficially became a nation, <strong>an</strong>d the labour<br />

movement beg<strong>an</strong> to grow in both industrial <strong>an</strong>d political strength, leading to<br />

the world’s first Labor government in 1904, <strong>an</strong>d the formation <strong>of</strong> other Labor<br />

governments in New South Wales <strong>an</strong>d the Commonwealth soon afterwards.<br />

<strong>The</strong> Trolly, Draymen <strong>an</strong>d Carters’ <strong>Union</strong> played a vital role in building this future.<br />

Without the dedicated service <strong>an</strong>d sacrifices <strong>of</strong> those workers, union delegates<br />

<strong>an</strong>d <strong>of</strong>ficials, the Tr<strong>an</strong>sport Workers’ <strong>Union</strong> would never have been able to

develop as the powerful voice <strong>of</strong> tr<strong>an</strong>sport workers in New South Wales <strong>an</strong>d<br />

across Australia.<br />

<strong>The</strong> <strong>Birth</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>an</strong> Org<strong>an</strong>ising <strong>Union</strong> is a testimony to the brave struggles <strong>of</strong> the<br />

workers who formed our union, <strong>an</strong>d serves as a powerful reminder that new<br />

generations <strong>of</strong> workers <strong>an</strong>d unions are <strong>of</strong>ten called upon to renew the struggle<br />

for achieving better wages <strong>an</strong>d conditions for working people, <strong>an</strong>d protecting our<br />

hard-won gains.<br />

<strong>The</strong> issues that inspired our forefathers to form this great union are the same<br />

issues we face today: the fight for safety on the job, the right to work reasonable<br />

hours to get fair wages <strong>an</strong>d conditions.<br />

<strong>The</strong> <strong>Birth</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>an</strong> Org<strong>an</strong>ising <strong>Union</strong> demonstrates why the union revived with such<br />

force in 1901. <strong>The</strong> lessons that were learnt in those early formative years are with<br />

us still: that the real strength <strong>of</strong> the Tr<strong>an</strong>sport Workers’ <strong>Union</strong> is our members <strong>an</strong>d<br />

that we were, <strong>an</strong>d always will be, <strong>an</strong> org<strong>an</strong>ising union.

Contents<br />

‘A union was much needed’:<br />

reviving the Trolly, Draymen <strong>an</strong>d Carters’ <strong>Union</strong> in 1901................................................. 3<br />

1888: First attempt to unionise.............................................................................................8<br />

Darling Harbour in 1901:<br />

the working world <strong>of</strong> the Trolly, Draymen <strong>an</strong>d Carters’ <strong>Union</strong>.......................................11<br />

Pyrmont Bridge: ‘a link <strong>of</strong> the utmost value’.....................................................................16<br />

Trolly, Dray <strong>an</strong>d Cart...............................................................................................................17<br />

“United We St<strong>an</strong>d, Divided We Fall”:<br />

creating the Trolly, Draymen <strong>an</strong>d Carters’ <strong>Union</strong> B<strong>an</strong>ner..............................................19<br />

Not all work: the union’s fundraising concert..................................................................22<br />

Australia in 1901......................................................................................................................23<br />

Fighting for shorter working hours <strong>an</strong>d fairer wages in 1901.......................................25<br />

‘Another Labor Victory!’<br />

<strong>The</strong> introduction <strong>of</strong> compulsory industrial arbitration..................................................29<br />

A d<strong>an</strong>gerous job:<br />

the hazards <strong>of</strong> a deregulated workplace in 1901.............................................................33<br />

‘<strong>The</strong> carriers are trying to combine’:<br />

org<strong>an</strong>ising beyond Sydney....................................................................................................36<br />

<strong>The</strong> controversial Billy Hughes............................................................................................38<br />

A fitting tribute to a reborn union:<br />

<strong>The</strong> eight hour day parade in 1901......................................................................................42<br />

Sources <strong>an</strong>d further reading............................................................................................... 48

2 <strong>The</strong> <strong>Birth</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>an</strong> Org<strong>an</strong>ising <strong>Union</strong>

‘A union was<br />

much needed’:<br />

reviving the<br />

Trolly, Draymen<br />

<strong>an</strong>d Carters’<br />

<strong>Union</strong> in 1901<br />


On Saturday 2 February 1901, a<br />

meeting <strong>of</strong> trollymen, draymen, <strong>an</strong>d<br />

carters was held at the Trades Hall in<br />

Sussex Street, Sydney, ‘with the object<br />

<strong>of</strong> establishing a union’.<br />

<strong>The</strong> attend<strong>an</strong>ce was, according to a<br />

newspaper report, ‘exceptionally large’.<br />

Forming a union <strong>of</strong> drivers <strong>of</strong> ‘Sydney<br />

<strong>an</strong>d the suburbs’ was <strong>an</strong> idea whose<br />

time had come. Over 500 drivers<br />

signed up to join the new union.<br />

<strong>The</strong> meeting was chaired by William<br />

Morris Hughes, the energetic <strong>an</strong>d<br />

ambitious Labor member <strong>of</strong> the New<br />

South Wales Parliament. Hughes<br />

represented the seat <strong>of</strong> L<strong>an</strong>g, which<br />

covered the working class districts<br />

around western Sydney harbour, where<br />

m<strong>an</strong>y <strong>of</strong> the union’s members lived <strong>an</strong>d<br />

worked.<br />

Hughes observed that ‘during the past<br />

few months Australia had experienced<br />

unprecedented activity in labour<br />

circles’, <strong>an</strong>d he added that ‘such <strong>an</strong><br />

enthusiastic response as the men had<br />

made was very flattering to those who<br />

set the movement for a union on foot.’<br />

<strong>The</strong> assembled men flattered<br />

themselves by putting their faith in<br />

one <strong>an</strong>other. <strong>The</strong>y voted to establish<br />

‘a temporary m<strong>an</strong>agement committee,<br />

consisting <strong>of</strong> one representative from<br />

each yard’, who would ‘carrying on the<br />

initial business <strong>of</strong> the union.’<br />

It was also decided that ‘for the first<br />

three months <strong>of</strong> the union’s existence<br />

no <strong>of</strong>ficers should be paid. <strong>The</strong><br />

entr<strong>an</strong>ce fee for joining the union was<br />

to be one shilling, <strong>an</strong>d the subscription<br />

for membership was set at six pence<br />

per week for the first three months.<br />

<strong>The</strong> Trolly, Draymen <strong>an</strong>d Carters’<br />

<strong>Union</strong> would be firmly based in<br />

the org<strong>an</strong>isation <strong>of</strong> its r<strong>an</strong>k <strong>an</strong>d<br />

file members, supported by the<br />

broader labour movement, including<br />

the members <strong>of</strong> Parliament who<br />

encouraged the union’s formation.<br />

‘A union among the class <strong>of</strong> workers<br />

4 <strong>The</strong> <strong>Birth</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>an</strong> Org<strong>an</strong>ising <strong>Union</strong>

present was much needed,’ Sam<br />

Smith, a Labor member <strong>of</strong> the NSW<br />

Parliament told the assembled drivers.<br />

‘He had frequently seen those men<br />

working about the wharfs <strong>an</strong>d streets<br />

until 9 <strong>an</strong>d 10 o’clock at night. <strong>The</strong>y<br />

then had, in m<strong>an</strong>y cases, to drive to<br />

dist<strong>an</strong>t suburbs to stable their horses,<br />

<strong>an</strong>d it was <strong>of</strong>ten midnight before they<br />

were free to go to their homes.’<br />

<strong>The</strong> suburbs might indeed have seemed<br />

dist<strong>an</strong>t to a tired carter, because at<br />

midnight he had to walk home, perhaps<br />

from Chippendale to Glebe, or even<br />

Balmain. Some <strong>of</strong> these dist<strong>an</strong>ces<br />

may not seem far, but imagine walking<br />

them after a long shift driving a dray in<br />

Sydney’s narrow streets.<br />

This was the world that Sam Smith<br />

❝<br />

<strong>The</strong> men present <strong>an</strong>d<br />

those they represented<br />

were numerous enough<br />

to form one <strong>of</strong> the<br />

strongest combinations<br />

in Sydney.<br />

reminded the assembled workers <strong>of</strong><br />

in February 1901. Smith knew, he said,<br />

that ‘men rose from their beds in the<br />

very early hours to feed <strong>an</strong>d groom<br />

their horses.’ But he promised that<br />

‘these extreme hours would be reduced<br />

under union conditions, <strong>an</strong>d when the<br />

❞- Sam Smith<br />

Reviving the Trolly, Draymen <strong>an</strong>d Carters’ <strong>Union</strong> in 1901<br />


Sydney Morning Herald,<br />

11 February 1901<br />

6 <strong>The</strong> <strong>Birth</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>an</strong> Org<strong>an</strong>ising <strong>Union</strong>

day’s work was shortened<br />

the question <strong>of</strong> wages<br />

could be considered.’<br />

Smith declared that, ‘<strong>The</strong><br />

men present <strong>an</strong>d those<br />

they represented were<br />

numerous enough to<br />

form one <strong>of</strong> the strongest<br />

combinations in Sydney,<br />

<strong>an</strong>d he appealed to them<br />

to do so.’ <strong>The</strong>y did not<br />

need much persuading.<br />

At a second meeting held<br />

two weeks later, the union’s<br />

membership doubled<br />

to over 1,100, out <strong>of</strong> a Sydney road<br />

tr<strong>an</strong>sport workforce <strong>of</strong> approximately<br />

3-3,500. At this meeting Billy Hughes<br />

was elected president <strong>an</strong>d Finley McInnes<br />

as secretary. Subsequently in November<br />

1901 Mick Connington was elected<br />

secretary. Connington proved a capable<br />

union <strong>of</strong>ficial <strong>an</strong>d industrial advocate <strong>an</strong>d<br />

he remained secretary until 1916.<br />

A sense <strong>of</strong> excitement, <strong>of</strong> new<br />

possibilities for org<strong>an</strong>ising unions <strong>an</strong>d<br />

better conditions for workers <strong>an</strong>d their<br />

families, was reflected at the meetings<br />

held in February 1901. However as with<br />

m<strong>an</strong>y other unions, the Trolly, Draymen<br />

<strong>an</strong>d Carters’ <strong>Union</strong> would find the early<br />

years <strong>of</strong> org<strong>an</strong>isation <strong>of</strong>ten difficult<br />

<strong>an</strong>d frustrating, as employers resisted<br />

union dem<strong>an</strong>ds <strong>an</strong>d the new industrial<br />

arbitration system responded slowly to<br />

industrial claims.<br />

Org<strong>an</strong>ising a union has never been easy.<br />

Reviving the Trolly, Draymen <strong>an</strong>d Carters’ <strong>Union</strong> in 1901<br />


*<br />

1888: First attempt to unionise<br />

February 1901 was not the first time<br />

that Sydney’s trollymen, draymen,<br />

<strong>an</strong>d carters had met to form a union.<br />

<strong>The</strong>y had done so with high hopes in<br />

Town <strong>an</strong>d Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907), Saturday 13 September 1890, page 12<br />


Strike.<br />


“<strong>The</strong> Trolly <strong>an</strong>d<br />


Draymen’s <strong>Union</strong><br />


... decided to place<br />

themselves entirely<br />

in the h<strong>an</strong>ds <strong>of</strong> the<br />

Defence Committee,<br />

<strong>an</strong>d to strike at a<br />

moment’s notice<br />


when called upon to<br />

do so.”<br />

<strong>The</strong> disastrous marit mo strike is still dragging<br />

now along, <strong>an</strong>d has fairly engulphed in its<br />

meshes the whole <strong>of</strong> tint commerce, trade,<br />

<strong>an</strong>d labor <strong>of</strong> the Austi ali<strong>an</strong> colonies. <strong>The</strong><br />

themselves<br />

Trades <strong>an</strong>d Labor leaders express<br />

ss very <strong>an</strong>xious for a conference with the<br />

Shipowners' <strong>an</strong>d Employers' <strong>Union</strong>, but tho latter<br />

aro <strong>of</strong> opinion that no ci'.icient basis c<strong>an</strong> be arrived<br />

at until th*y aro allowed to havo some freedom<br />

shall not em<br />

<strong>of</strong> action as to whom they shall or<br />

ploy, <strong>an</strong>d whether their busine.-s shall bu kept in<br />

const<strong>an</strong>t disruption through tho dictation <strong>of</strong> the<br />

several unioas. To discuss <strong>an</strong>d decide thia<br />

point <strong>an</strong>d to settle a number <strong>of</strong> vexed questions,<br />

tho<br />


mat in conference on tho afternoon <strong>of</strong> September<br />

0 at t' o Chamber cf Commerce. <strong>The</strong>re wero<br />

present representatives <strong>of</strong> the Steamship Owners'<br />

Associations <strong>of</strong> New South WalcB, Victoria, <strong>an</strong>d<br />

South Australia, tho Employers' <strong>Union</strong>s <strong>of</strong> New<br />

South Wales, Victoria, South Australia <strong>an</strong>d<br />

Queensl<strong>an</strong>d, tho Pastoralists' <strong>Union</strong>s <strong>of</strong> this<br />

colony <strong>an</strong>d Victoria, the Associated Colliery<br />

Owners <strong>of</strong> this colony, <strong>an</strong>d various other kindred<br />

Sydney Morning Herald,<br />

associations wore represented. On tho motion <strong>of</strong><br />

Mr. Henry Hudson,<br />

<strong>Union</strong> <strong>of</strong> New South Wales, seconded<br />

11 September 1890<br />

president <strong>of</strong> the Employers'<br />

by Mr. W.<br />

<strong>of</strong> the Steamship Owners'<br />

chairm<strong>an</strong> O, "Willis,<br />

Association <strong>of</strong> Australasia, Mr. E. M. Young,<br />

general m<strong>an</strong>ager <strong>of</strong> the Australi<strong>an</strong> M'

<strong>of</strong> New South Wales <strong>an</strong>d the other<br />

Australi<strong>an</strong> colonies.<br />

<strong>The</strong> unions were dem<strong>an</strong>ding the right<br />

to org<strong>an</strong>ise, <strong>an</strong>d to represent their<br />

members. <strong>The</strong> employers <strong>an</strong>d the<br />

government were determined to crush<br />

them. <strong>The</strong>y refused to recognise unions<br />

as legitimate representatives <strong>of</strong> their<br />

members.<br />

Strike-breaking in<br />

Sydney 1890<br />

Scabs took the strikers’ jobs; the NSW<br />

government defeated the strikes <strong>an</strong>d<br />

the unions. In September 1890 the Trolly<br />

<strong>an</strong>d Draymen’s <strong>Union</strong>’s members went<br />

on strike in support <strong>of</strong> the shearers <strong>an</strong>d<br />

maritime workers, but were defeated,<br />

the government using mounted troopers<br />

to break-up union pickets.<br />

By the early 1890s a severe economic<br />

depression also hit the Australi<strong>an</strong><br />

colonies, driving up to 25% <strong>of</strong> workers<br />

into unemployment, <strong>an</strong>d collapsing the<br />

org<strong>an</strong>isational strength <strong>of</strong> the recently<br />

formed unions.<br />

<strong>The</strong> crippling effects <strong>of</strong> the economic<br />

depression lingered throughout the<br />

1890s.<br />

It was not until the turn<br />

<strong>of</strong> the century, <strong>an</strong>d as the<br />

colonies federated to form the<br />

Commonwealth <strong>of</strong> Australia in<br />

1901, that economic conditions<br />

also improved, <strong>an</strong>d governments –<br />

both state <strong>an</strong>d federal – beg<strong>an</strong> to<br />

acknowledge unions as legitimate<br />

representatives <strong>of</strong> their members.<br />

In 1890 the unions<br />

were dem<strong>an</strong>ding<br />

the right to<br />

org<strong>an</strong>ise, <strong>an</strong>d to<br />

represent their<br />

members. <strong>The</strong><br />

employers <strong>an</strong>d the<br />

government were<br />

determined to<br />

crush them.<br />

1888: First attempt to unionise<br />


10 <strong>The</strong> <strong>Birth</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>an</strong> Org<strong>an</strong>ising <strong>Union</strong>

Darling Harbour in 1901:<br />

the working world <strong>of</strong><br />

the Trolly, Draymen <strong>an</strong>d<br />

Carters’ <strong>Union</strong><br />


<strong>The</strong> suburbs that folded around Darling<br />

Harbour formed the centre <strong>of</strong> the<br />

working world for the Trolly, Draymen<br />

<strong>an</strong>d Carters’ <strong>Union</strong> in 1901.<br />

Darling Harbour was also a centre <strong>of</strong><br />

production <strong>an</strong>d industrial conflict. It<br />

was a rough realm <strong>of</strong> timber wharves<br />

<strong>an</strong>d wool sheds, t<strong>an</strong>neries <strong>an</strong>d rail<br />

yards.<br />

❝ Living conditions<br />

were poor:<br />

<strong>of</strong>ten not much<br />

better th<strong>an</strong> the<br />

horse stables<br />

that were also a<br />

feature <strong>of</strong> every<br />

street.<br />

❞<br />

Darling Harbour was the working<br />

harbour <strong>of</strong> Sydney. Barricades <strong>of</strong> masts<br />

<strong>an</strong>d churning funnels marked out the<br />

columns <strong>of</strong> tethered ships butting up to<br />

the wharves.<br />

Between J<strong>an</strong>uary <strong>an</strong>d March 1901,<br />

609,000 bags <strong>of</strong> wheat were received<br />

at Darling Harbour, much <strong>of</strong> it<br />

bound for the export market. On 30<br />

November 1901, 7800 bales <strong>of</strong> wool<br />

were m<strong>an</strong>ifested to arrive by rail.<br />

Wheat <strong>an</strong>d wool were just the big<br />

ticket items <strong>of</strong> a rich trade in goods<br />

<strong>an</strong>d produce that poured into Darling<br />

12 <strong>The</strong> <strong>Birth</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>an</strong> Org<strong>an</strong>ising <strong>Union</strong>

Harbour <strong>an</strong>d then streamed out into<br />

Sydney, carried away by drays <strong>an</strong>d<br />

carts <strong>an</strong>d straining teams <strong>of</strong> horses.<br />

<strong>The</strong> streets around Darling Harbour<br />

were also packed with family homes.<br />

Suburbs <strong>an</strong>d workplaces were bound<br />

close together; homes were thin<br />

terraces <strong>an</strong>d collapsing cottages,<br />

m<strong>an</strong>y dating back to the early years <strong>of</strong><br />

colonial settlement.<br />

Sussex Street was ‘a great artery <strong>of</strong><br />

business, <strong>an</strong>d most residents <strong>of</strong> Sydney<br />

wonder how its immense volume<br />

<strong>of</strong> traffic is tr<strong>an</strong>sacted in the room<br />

allotted.’<br />

Darling Harbour in 1901<br />


Smokestack soot mingled with the<br />

pungent reek <strong>of</strong> the t<strong>an</strong>nery <strong>an</strong>d the<br />

horse m<strong>an</strong>ure scattered along Kent<br />

<strong>an</strong>d Sussex Streets. This is where trolly<br />

<strong>an</strong>d draymen worked, <strong>an</strong>d where their<br />

families lived.<br />

<strong>The</strong> living conditions were poor: <strong>of</strong>ten<br />

not much better th<strong>an</strong> the horse stables<br />

that were also a feature <strong>of</strong> every<br />

street. <strong>The</strong> streets <strong>an</strong>d l<strong>an</strong>es provided<br />

the playgrounds for the children.<br />

Plague Outbreak<br />

A dramatic revelation <strong>of</strong> the poor<br />

living conditions was provided by<br />

the outbreak <strong>of</strong> that medieval terror,<br />

bubonic plague, which suddenly struck<br />

in the Rocks districts <strong>of</strong> Sydney in<br />

1900, tr<strong>an</strong>smitted by nimble rats from<br />

ship to the squalid shore <strong>of</strong> Darling<br />

Harbour where it found a fertile<br />

breeding ground.<br />

A City Council inspection <strong>of</strong> the<br />

14 <strong>The</strong> <strong>Birth</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>an</strong> Org<strong>an</strong>ising <strong>Union</strong>

Darling Harbour wharves in March 1901<br />

found that ‘in no inst<strong>an</strong>ce were <strong>an</strong>y<br />

precautions taken by the masters <strong>of</strong><br />

vessels to prevent rats getting ashore<br />

along the hawsers.’<br />

<strong>The</strong> inspectors also found that,<br />

‘Steaming slowly past the jetties one<br />

noticed m<strong>an</strong>y <strong>of</strong> them in a dilapidated<br />

condition, the piles wholly or half eaten<br />

away, as well as the pile sheathing<br />

which does duty for a wall. Here was <strong>an</strong><br />

ideal retreat for rats.’<br />

<strong>The</strong> plague outbreak’s first victim was<br />

Arthur Payne, a local trollym<strong>an</strong>, who<br />

luckily recovered. In all, 103 people died<br />

in the outbreak, which persisted for<br />

over a year.<br />

A program <strong>of</strong> disinfection <strong>an</strong>d<br />

demolition <strong>of</strong> condemned properties<br />

was still underway around the Rocks<br />

<strong>an</strong>d the Darling Harbour area in 1901.<br />

Darling Harbour in 1901<br />


Pyrmont Bridge at the<br />

turn <strong>of</strong> the century<br />

Pyrmont<br />

Bridge:<br />

‘a link <strong>of</strong> the<br />

utmost value’<br />

By 1901 the new Pyrmont Bridge sp<strong>an</strong>ning Darling Harbour was nearing completion.<br />

Pyrmont Bridge was described at the time as ‘a link <strong>of</strong> the utmost value in the<br />

chain <strong>of</strong> metropolit<strong>an</strong> intercommunications.’ It was a vital infrastructure component<br />

<strong>of</strong> the redevelopment <strong>of</strong> Darling Harbour underway at the time, spurred by the<br />

demolition <strong>of</strong> derelict buildings <strong>an</strong>d wharves as a consequence <strong>of</strong> the plague<br />

outbreak.<br />

In June 1901 it was also <strong>an</strong>nounced that a new wheat shed, ‘capable <strong>of</strong> containing<br />

one million three hundred thous<strong>an</strong>d bushels <strong>of</strong> wheat, with proper l<strong>an</strong>ding<br />

appli<strong>an</strong>ces’, would immediately be erected at Darling Isl<strong>an</strong>d. It was a confirmation<br />

<strong>of</strong> the import<strong>an</strong>ce <strong>of</strong> the Darling Harbour precinct to the state’s economy, <strong>an</strong>d a<br />

promise <strong>of</strong> future work for the draymen <strong>an</strong>d carters who distributed the goods <strong>an</strong>d<br />

produce that were tr<strong>an</strong>smitted through Darling Harbour.<br />

16 <strong>The</strong> <strong>Birth</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>an</strong> Org<strong>an</strong>ising <strong>Union</strong>

Trolly, Dray <strong>an</strong>d Cart<br />

<strong>The</strong> union established at the turn <strong>of</strong> the century intended to combine a disparate but<br />

clearly identifiable workforce: workers whose employment was defined by driving<br />

horse-drawn vehicles.<br />

In 1901, a ‘trolly’ driven by a member <strong>of</strong> the union was a horse-drawn vehicle. A trolly<br />

or a cart could be <strong>an</strong>y number <strong>of</strong> horse-drawn vehicles with four wheels. A dray was<br />

a flat-bed cart without sides. <strong>The</strong>re were also lighter two-wheeled drays <strong>an</strong>d small<br />

v<strong>an</strong>s.<br />

During the Maritime Strike in September 1890 strike-breaking wool-owners<br />

approached Circular Quay in Sydney to deliver their wool bales to the waiting ships.<br />

<strong>The</strong>n, as a newspaper reported, ‘the trollies bearing the bales were surrounded by<br />

unionists, <strong>an</strong>d the heads <strong>of</strong> the horses turned the other way.’ <strong>The</strong> trolly referred<br />

to here was a large, specialised wool trolly required to bear the load <strong>of</strong> a several<br />

stacked wool bales.<br />

Specialist drivers<br />

As Mark Bray <strong>an</strong>d Malcolm Rimmer note in their history <strong>of</strong> the TWU, Delivering the<br />

Goods, m<strong>an</strong>y carters were necessarily specialists: ‘m<strong>an</strong>y drivers stuck to a single kind<br />

<strong>of</strong> work because their vehicle had only one use.’<br />

Carters <strong>of</strong>ten hauled only one commodity: they were meat carters <strong>an</strong>d beer carters,<br />

or furniture carters, for example. M<strong>an</strong>y <strong>of</strong> these drivers were self-employed, coping<br />

with the vagaries <strong>of</strong> maintaining teams <strong>an</strong>d finding work, problems familiar to<br />

modern owner-drivers. <strong>The</strong> breweries <strong>an</strong>d large retail stores like Anthony Horderns<br />

or David Jones employed their own drivers <strong>an</strong>d maintained their own delivery carts<br />

<strong>an</strong>d horse teams.<br />

Pyrmont Bridge: ‘a link <strong>of</strong> the utmost value’<br />



“United We St<strong>an</strong>d,<br />

Divided We Fall”:<br />

creating the Trolly,<br />

Draymen <strong>an</strong>d<br />

Carters’<br />

<strong>Union</strong> B<strong>an</strong>ner<br />


Across 1901 the records reveal the<br />

determination <strong>of</strong> the Trolly, Draymen<br />

<strong>an</strong>d Carters’ <strong>Union</strong> to fund <strong>an</strong>d produce<br />

a b<strong>an</strong>ner. <strong>Union</strong> b<strong>an</strong>ners provided a<br />

powerful symbolic representation <strong>of</strong><br />

union identity, <strong>an</strong>d the work performed<br />

by unionists.<br />

❝ <strong>The</strong> b<strong>an</strong>ner is a beautiful piece<br />

<strong>of</strong> work from the establishment<br />

<strong>of</strong> JJ Legg <strong>an</strong>d Co, <strong>of</strong> 119<br />

Clarence-street. It is <strong>of</strong> blue<br />

silk, <strong>an</strong>d 14ft by 12ft. On the<br />

front <strong>of</strong> it there is a central<br />

picture representing light <strong>an</strong>d<br />

heavy work as performed by the<br />

members <strong>of</strong> the union.<br />

❞<br />

On Friday 4 October 1901 the b<strong>an</strong>ner<br />

was ceremoniously unfurled at a<br />

meeting at the Protest<strong>an</strong>t Hall in<br />

lower Castlereagh Street. This was a<br />

working class district near the Belmore<br />

Markets <strong>an</strong>d Chinatown, which had<br />

yet to move west to Dixon Street.<br />

Lower Castlereagh Street had several<br />

venues, including the Protest<strong>an</strong>t<br />

Hall, frequently used by the labour<br />

movement <strong>an</strong>d working class political<br />

org<strong>an</strong>isations.<br />

<strong>The</strong> Sydney Morning Herald reported:<br />

‘<strong>The</strong> b<strong>an</strong>ner is a beautiful piece <strong>of</strong> work<br />

from the establishment <strong>of</strong> JJ Legg <strong>an</strong>d<br />

Co, <strong>of</strong> 119 Clarence Street. It is <strong>of</strong> blue<br />

silk, <strong>an</strong>d 14ft by 12ft. On the front <strong>of</strong> it<br />

20 <strong>The</strong> <strong>Birth</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>an</strong> Org<strong>an</strong>ising <strong>Union</strong>

there is a central picture representing<br />

light <strong>an</strong>d heavy work as performed<br />

by the members <strong>of</strong> the union. In it is<br />

shown on one side a horse drawing<br />

a load <strong>of</strong> flour in a waggon, <strong>an</strong>d on<br />

the other side a light v<strong>an</strong> drawn by a<br />

horse. <strong>The</strong> drivers <strong>of</strong> the two vehicles<br />

are shaking h<strong>an</strong>ds in the centre.<br />

Surrounding the picture are smaller<br />

ones representing parcel delivery,<br />

furniture-removing, light-load work,<br />

<strong>an</strong>d a heavy wool team. Underneath<br />

is the motto, “United to Assist, not to<br />

Crush”.’<br />

<strong>The</strong> motto reflected the desire <strong>of</strong><br />

the union to work as co-operatively<br />

as possible with employers <strong>an</strong>d the<br />

government <strong>of</strong> the day to improve the<br />

wages <strong>an</strong>d working conditions <strong>of</strong> its<br />

members, resorting to industrial action<br />

when necessary.<br />

<strong>Union</strong> b<strong>an</strong>ners also celebrated the<br />

vital contribution <strong>of</strong> their members<br />

in the task <strong>of</strong> nation building. This<br />

ambition had a particular focus in 1901:<br />

on 1 J<strong>an</strong>uary <strong>of</strong> that year the various<br />

colonies had federated to form the<br />

Commonwealth <strong>of</strong> Australia. So on the<br />

reverse side <strong>of</strong> the b<strong>an</strong>ner, as brilli<strong>an</strong>tly<br />

decorative as the front, were two<br />

pictures, as the Herald observed:<br />

‘One representing city trade, <strong>an</strong>d the<br />

other the shipping trade, surmounted<br />

by Australi<strong>an</strong> flowers <strong>an</strong>d the<br />

Australi<strong>an</strong> Coat <strong>of</strong> Arms. A wreath<br />

bears the name <strong>of</strong> the union. <strong>The</strong><br />

embellishments are <strong>of</strong> gold, <strong>an</strong>d are<br />

connected at the bottom with the<br />

motto, “United We St<strong>an</strong>d, Divided We<br />

Fall.”’<br />

By October 1901 the union had grown<br />

to a membership <strong>of</strong> 1,300, more th<strong>an</strong><br />

doubling the number who founded<br />

the union only a few months earlier.<br />

No wonder there were loud cheers to<br />

greet the unfurling <strong>of</strong> the b<strong>an</strong>ner in the<br />

Protest<strong>an</strong>t Hall.<br />

Creating the Trolly, Draymen <strong>an</strong>d Carters’ <strong>Union</strong> B<strong>an</strong>ner<br />


Not all work:<br />

the union’s fundraising concert<br />

❝ It was also<br />

reported that<br />

‘the proceeds<br />

resulting from<br />

the concert are<br />

to be devoted to<br />

the purchase <strong>of</strong><br />

a b<strong>an</strong>ner for the<br />

union.’<br />

❞<br />

<strong>The</strong> trollymen knew how to<br />

throw a party. On 6 May 1901 the<br />

union held a successful concert<br />

at the New Masonic Hall,<br />

Castlereagh Street, attended by<br />

over one thous<strong>an</strong>d people.<br />

‘An excellent programme <strong>of</strong><br />

vocal <strong>an</strong>d instrumental music,<br />

step-d<strong>an</strong>cing, <strong>an</strong>d character<br />

impersonsations was submitted,<br />

<strong>an</strong>d there was frequent <strong>an</strong>d<br />

hearty applause. Among those<br />

who contributed items were Mr.<br />

Tod Callaway <strong>an</strong>d Mr. Howard<br />

Chambers, who appeared by<br />

permission <strong>of</strong> Mr. Rickards, <strong>an</strong>d<br />

Mr. John Fuller, <strong>of</strong> the Empire<br />

<strong>The</strong>atre.’<br />

Fuller’s Empire <strong>The</strong>atre was<br />

nearby in Castlereagh street<br />

<strong>an</strong>d featured ‘vaudeville’<br />

<strong>The</strong> Royal St<strong>an</strong>dard, known as the<br />

Empire <strong>The</strong>atre in 1901, provided the<br />

entertainers for the union’s b<strong>an</strong>ner<br />

fundraising concert.<br />

comedi<strong>an</strong>s, minstrel <strong>an</strong>d variety<br />

performers. It was also reported<br />

that ‘the proceeds resulting from<br />

the concert are to be devoted to the<br />

purchase <strong>of</strong> a b<strong>an</strong>ner for the union.’<br />

22<br />

<strong>The</strong> <strong>Birth</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>an</strong> Org<strong>an</strong>ising <strong>Union</strong>

Australia in 1901<br />

Population: 3,773,801<br />

Federation: 1 J<strong>an</strong>uary 1901<br />

Prime Minister: Edmund Barton<br />

New South Wales<br />

Premier: John See<br />

Population: 1,354,846<br />

Workforce: 451,403 males,<br />

113,396 females<br />

Tr<strong>an</strong>sport <strong>an</strong>d Communication<br />

workforce: 45,000<br />

No. <strong>of</strong> union members in NSW: 30,000<br />

Federation parade in Bridge Street, Sydney 1 J<strong>an</strong>uary 1901<br />

Australia in 1901<br />


Eight Hours <strong>an</strong>d Safe Rates<br />

In 1901 the carters employed by the Sydney<br />

retailing firm David Jones & Co. were compelled<br />

to work <strong>an</strong> average 15 hours per day.<br />

Today drivers are still compelled to drive long<br />

<strong>an</strong>d unsafe hours. That is why the TWU fought<br />

a 20 year campaign to establish the Safe Rates<br />

Remuneration Tribunal. <strong>The</strong> need for the Tribunal<br />

c<strong>an</strong> trace its footsteps back to, <strong>an</strong>d beyond, 1888.<br />

24 <strong>The</strong> <strong>Birth</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>an</strong> Org<strong>an</strong>ising <strong>Union</strong>

Fighting for shorter<br />

working hours <strong>an</strong>d<br />

fairer wages in 1901<br />


When the Trolly, Draymen <strong>an</strong>d Carters’<br />

<strong>Union</strong> was established in February<br />

1901 it was decided that the hours <strong>of</strong><br />

work the men should perform would be<br />

60 hours per week. <strong>The</strong> union rate <strong>of</strong><br />

wages was set at: for men driving one<br />

horse, 40s per week; for men driving<br />

two horses 45s per week, <strong>an</strong>d 2s 6d<br />

extra for each horse driven.<br />

❝ For the carters <strong>of</strong> David<br />

Jones & Co., ‘week in <strong>an</strong>d<br />

week out, the record is one<br />

<strong>of</strong> incess<strong>an</strong>t work. <strong>The</strong>y<br />

rarely see their families,<br />

for the children are asleep<br />

when they leave home in the<br />

morning, <strong>an</strong>d asleep when<br />

they arrive home at night.’<br />

❞<br />

In 1901 working hours were a major<br />

issue, with dem<strong>an</strong>ds that carters be<br />

brought under the terms <strong>of</strong> the NSW<br />

Early Closing Act, which would have<br />

the effect <strong>of</strong> reducing st<strong>an</strong>dard hours<br />

<strong>of</strong> work. One meeting was told <strong>of</strong> ‘the<br />

injustice that m<strong>an</strong>y men were labouring<br />

under in being compelled to work from<br />

80 to 100 hours per week.’<br />

<strong>The</strong> carters employed by the Sydney<br />

retailing firm David Jones & Co. were<br />

compelled to work <strong>an</strong> average 15<br />

hours per day. <strong>The</strong> People, a radical<br />

working class newspaper <strong>of</strong> the period,<br />

26 <strong>The</strong> <strong>Birth</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>an</strong> Org<strong>an</strong>ising <strong>Union</strong>

eported that for the carters <strong>of</strong> David<br />

Jones & Co., ‘week in <strong>an</strong>d week out,<br />

the record is one <strong>of</strong> incess<strong>an</strong>t work.<br />

<strong>The</strong>y rarely see their families, for the<br />

children are asleep when they leave<br />

home in the morning, <strong>an</strong>d asleep when<br />

they arrive home at night.’<br />

<strong>The</strong> carters were also ‘forced to pay<br />

6d. per week each into what is called a<br />

‘parcel fund’ — a kind <strong>of</strong> insur<strong>an</strong>ce fund<br />

to recoup the firm for parcels that go<br />

astray in the process <strong>of</strong> delivery.’<br />

People also noted that ‘the highest<br />

wage paid by the firm is 37s. 6d per<br />

week — one m<strong>an</strong> who has been in their<br />

employ for ten years is receiving that<br />

amount — <strong>an</strong>d the lowest 32s. 6d’ –<br />

rates well below those dem<strong>an</strong>ded by<br />

the union.<br />

In August 1901 some progress towards<br />

better wages was made at a conference<br />

between the Trolly, Draymen <strong>an</strong>d<br />

Carters’ <strong>Union</strong> <strong>an</strong>d the Master Carriers’<br />

Association. <strong>The</strong> minimum wage for<br />

one horse drivers was set at £2 (40s) a<br />

week, <strong>an</strong>d that for two horse drivers £2<br />

5s., with overtime for all loads put on<br />

after 5 p.m. to be paid for as from 6.30<br />

p.m., with time-<strong>an</strong>d-a-half for holidays<br />

<strong>an</strong>d Sundays to team men, <strong>an</strong>d 8s. 6d.<br />

a day for stable work.<br />

On the question <strong>of</strong> working hours, the<br />

union had less success; the conference<br />

decided that the maximum number <strong>of</strong><br />

hours be sixty-six per week, more th<strong>an</strong><br />

the sixty hour week that the union had<br />

hoped to achieve. And as Bray <strong>an</strong>d<br />

Rimmer observed in their history <strong>of</strong> the<br />

union, Delivering the Goods, the union<br />

also found it difficult to compel the<br />

employers to honour the agreement.<br />

Employers would have to be forced to<br />

honour industrial agreements: <strong>an</strong>d that<br />

me<strong>an</strong>t bringing down the weight <strong>of</strong> the<br />

law on the bosses.<br />

Fighting for shorter working hours <strong>an</strong>d fairer wages in 1901<br />


28 <strong>The</strong> <strong>Birth</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>an</strong> Org<strong>an</strong>ising <strong>Union</strong>

‘Another Labor<br />

Victory!’ <strong>The</strong><br />

introduction<br />

<strong>of</strong> compulsory<br />

industrial<br />

arbitration<br />


In December 1901 the labour movement<br />

celebrated the passage through the<br />

NSW Parliament <strong>of</strong> the Industrial<br />

Arbitration Act, which compelled<br />

employers to bargain with unions <strong>an</strong>d<br />

workers: ‘Another Labor Victory!’<br />

<strong>The</strong> Sydney Worker, the newspaper <strong>of</strong><br />

the labour movement, declared that<br />

‘<strong>The</strong> uncompromising attitude <strong>of</strong> the<br />

N.S.W. Political Labor League’ had<br />

forced the government to reinstate the<br />

clause which gave preference to trade<br />

unionists.<br />

<strong>Union</strong>s hoped that<br />

industrial arbitration<br />

would resolve the<br />

differences between<br />

capital <strong>an</strong>d labour.<br />

Livingstone Hopkins,<br />

‘<strong>The</strong> Labour Crisis’,<br />

Bulletin, 16 August 1890<br />

For the Worker, the reinstatement <strong>of</strong><br />

the clause reflected the success <strong>of</strong> the<br />

Labor Party since its birth in 1891. In<br />

that year, Labor won 35 seats in the<br />

NSW Legislative Assembly. <strong>The</strong> unions<br />

had established the Labor Party as a<br />

consequence <strong>of</strong> their frustration with<br />

the grim economic circumst<strong>an</strong>ces <strong>of</strong><br />

the early 1890s, <strong>an</strong>d the aggressive<br />

resist<strong>an</strong>ce to union campaigns for<br />

better wages <strong>an</strong>d conditions by<br />

employers.<br />

30 <strong>The</strong> <strong>Birth</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>an</strong> Org<strong>an</strong>ising <strong>Union</strong>

Since 1891 Labor had, according to the<br />

Worker, proved itself ‘the pacemaker <strong>of</strong><br />

reform’, initiating a raft <strong>of</strong> legislation<br />

to improve the condition <strong>of</strong> workers<br />

<strong>an</strong>d their families. Although Labor had<br />

not been able to win enough seats to<br />

govern, it held the bal<strong>an</strong>ce <strong>of</strong> power<br />

in Parliament, <strong>an</strong>d dem<strong>an</strong>ded from<br />

governments ‘support in return for<br />

concessions.’<br />

In 1901 the preference for unionists<br />

clause allowed unions like the Trolly,<br />

Draymen <strong>an</strong>d Carters to function<br />

as the effective representatives <strong>of</strong><br />

their members in industrial disputes<br />

<strong>an</strong>d cases brought before the NSW<br />

Industrial Arbitration Court.<br />

❝ Since 1891 Labor had,<br />

according to the Worker,<br />

proved itself ‘the pacemaker<br />

<strong>of</strong> reform’, initiating a raft<br />

<strong>of</strong> legislation to improve the<br />

condition <strong>of</strong> workers <strong>an</strong>d<br />

their families.<br />

❞<br />

<strong>The</strong> introduction <strong>of</strong> the Act provided<br />

a new basis for bargaining, although it<br />

was not until 1904 that the union was<br />

able to achieve its first industrial award<br />

under the Act.<br />

<strong>The</strong> introduction <strong>of</strong> compulsory industrial arbitration<br />


TWU South Coast b<strong>an</strong>ner<br />


A d<strong>an</strong>gerous job:<br />

the hazards <strong>of</strong><br />

a deregulated<br />

workplace in 1901<br />


<strong>The</strong> hazards <strong>of</strong> carting heavy loads on<br />

the roads <strong>of</strong> Sydney <strong>an</strong>d New South<br />

Wales are not new. In J<strong>an</strong>uary 1901 a<br />

serious collision occurred between a<br />

Glebe Point tram <strong>an</strong>d a cart which left<br />

the two carters injured.<br />

❝ Overloading <strong>an</strong>d poorly<br />

tethered loads also caused<br />

serious accidents, practices<br />

that were the product <strong>of</strong><br />

tight deadlines <strong>an</strong>d dem<strong>an</strong>ds<br />

to maximise pr<strong>of</strong>its.<br />

❞<br />

Perhaps the long, exhausting working<br />

hours that the union campaigned to<br />

reduce contributed to the accident,<br />

which took place shortly before<br />

midnight at the intersection <strong>of</strong> Bridge<br />

Road <strong>an</strong>d Glebe Point Road. <strong>The</strong> cart<br />

was crossing the tramline when it was<br />

struck ‘with considerable force’ by the<br />

tram.<br />

‘<strong>The</strong> cart was overturned, <strong>an</strong>d Patrick<br />

Hog<strong>an</strong>, living in Kent Street, Sydney,<br />

<strong>an</strong>d John Clune, living in Chester<br />

Street, Camperdown, who were its<br />

occup<strong>an</strong>ts at the time, were thrown<br />

heavily to the roadway. Both men were<br />

conveyed to the Prince Alfred Hospital.<br />

Hog<strong>an</strong> was suffering from a very<br />

severe scalp wound, <strong>an</strong>d was admitted<br />

34 <strong>The</strong> <strong>Birth</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>an</strong> Org<strong>an</strong>ising <strong>Union</strong>

to the institution; but Clune, after being<br />

treated for cuts und bruises, was able<br />

to proceed to his home.’<br />

Overloading <strong>an</strong>d poorly tethered<br />

loads also caused serious accidents,<br />

practices that were the product <strong>of</strong> tight<br />

deadlines <strong>an</strong>d dem<strong>an</strong>ds to maximise<br />

pr<strong>of</strong>its.<br />

At Darling Harbour in December 1901,<br />

a carter named Charles Trotter, <strong>of</strong> East<br />

Street Redfern, was taking a load <strong>of</strong><br />

wool to Messrs John Bridge <strong>an</strong>d Co’s<br />

Darling Harbour stores when two <strong>of</strong><br />

the bales fell from the cart, striking<br />

him. ‘Trotter was conveyed by the Civil<br />

Ambul<strong>an</strong>ce to Sydney Hospital, where<br />

he was admitted suffering from a<br />

fracture <strong>of</strong> the left thigh.’<br />

<strong>of</strong> Hunters Hill. Inquiring into the death,<br />

a magistrates court was told that prior<br />

to the accident Rhem was walking<br />

about five yards behind his dray, which<br />

contained two tons <strong>of</strong> coal.<br />

In turning the corner <strong>of</strong> Church Street<br />

into Drummoyne Street the horses<br />

attached to the dray turned sharply<br />

round the corner. <strong>The</strong>re was a lamppost<br />

on the edge <strong>of</strong> the kerb. Henry<br />

Rhem was behind his cart at the time,<br />

assisting his fellow driver to negotiate<br />

the turn. Rehm r<strong>an</strong> up to the horses<br />

with the evident intention <strong>of</strong> turning<br />

the leader. He caught hold <strong>of</strong> the reins<br />

with his right h<strong>an</strong>d <strong>an</strong>d put his left arm<br />

round the lamp-post. He was crushed<br />

between the lamp-post <strong>an</strong>d the heavilyladen<br />

dray.<br />

Perhaps the most tragic <strong>of</strong> the<br />

industrial accidents <strong>of</strong> 1901 involving<br />

draymen <strong>an</strong>d carters occurred in<br />

October. Henry Rhem died as a result<br />

<strong>of</strong> a dray accident in the Sydney suburb<br />

Rhem died as a result <strong>of</strong> his internal<br />

injuries several days later. He was 22<br />

years old.<br />

<strong>The</strong> hazards <strong>of</strong> a deregulated workplace in 1901<br />


‘<strong>The</strong> carriers are trying to combine’:<br />

org<strong>an</strong>ising beyond Sydney<br />

After the disastrous economic collapse<br />

<strong>of</strong> the 1890s, unionism was still in its<br />

inf<strong>an</strong>cy in New South Wales in 1901.<br />

So the Trolly, Draymen <strong>an</strong>d Carters’<br />

<strong>Union</strong> concentrated on establishing its<br />

org<strong>an</strong>isation in the industrial centre <strong>of</strong><br />

Sydney. Elsewhere across New South<br />

Wales, carters <strong>an</strong>d carriers sought to<br />

establish their own local unions, which<br />

over time came together to form the<br />

modern Tr<strong>an</strong>sport Workers’ <strong>Union</strong>.<br />

Across rural New South Wales, carriers<br />

played the role <strong>of</strong> the modern long<br />

dist<strong>an</strong>ce driver; sometimes working<br />

their own business, sometimes<br />

employed by others. But they <strong>of</strong>ten<br />

faced the same problems <strong>of</strong> poor pay<br />

<strong>an</strong>d working conditions. <strong>The</strong>se were the<br />

griev<strong>an</strong>ces <strong>of</strong> the carriers <strong>of</strong> the NSW<br />

south coast who moved to unionise in<br />

February 1901:<br />

36 <strong>The</strong> <strong>Birth</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>an</strong> Org<strong>an</strong>ising <strong>Union</strong>

‘<strong>The</strong> carriers are trying to combine.<br />

<strong>The</strong>y me<strong>an</strong> business too, for they have<br />

called a meeting for the 23rd February<br />

<strong>an</strong>d every carrier in the district has<br />

signed the requisition. <strong>The</strong> object <strong>of</strong><br />

the meeting is to combine <strong>an</strong>d do away<br />

with the starvation rates for which<br />

they have been carrying so long - rates<br />

which me<strong>an</strong> nothing better th<strong>an</strong> poorly<br />

fed families, <strong>an</strong>d worse fed horses.’<br />

<strong>The</strong> newspaper report noted that,<br />

‘Some nine or ten years ago the<br />

carriers <strong>of</strong> this district made a<br />

similar effort to form a union but the<br />

movement fell through with a nasty<br />

thud. Its failure was due to that enemy<br />

<strong>of</strong> all unions — the blackleg. <strong>The</strong> men<br />

who might have stuck to their mates<br />

through thick <strong>an</strong>d thin were compelled<br />

to give in because their mates deserted<br />

the ship <strong>an</strong>d went back to the old cut<br />

throat rates.’ That disunity was <strong>of</strong>ten<br />

<strong>an</strong> effect <strong>of</strong> the economic depression,<br />

forcing desperate workers to take<br />

whatever meagre wages were on <strong>of</strong>fer.<br />

<strong>The</strong> carriers <strong>of</strong> 1901 faced cost<br />

pressures familiar to the modern<br />

long dist<strong>an</strong>ce owner-driver. ‘<strong>The</strong><br />

present rate <strong>of</strong> carriage is ridiculous.<br />

A m<strong>an</strong> with a team <strong>of</strong> eight horses,<br />

which costs nothing under £100, will<br />

travel sixty miles to the port <strong>an</strong>d<br />

sometimes further for 1s 6d to 2s 6d<br />

a hundredweight - according to the<br />

amount he owes the storekeeper. Out<br />

<strong>of</strong> this he has to feed his horses <strong>an</strong>d<br />

feed <strong>an</strong>d clothe himself <strong>an</strong>d his family.<br />

<strong>The</strong> result is, as we said before, poor<br />

horses, <strong>an</strong>d poor people.’<br />

<strong>The</strong> newspaper also noted the<br />

inspiration provided by the federation<br />

<strong>of</strong> the Australi<strong>an</strong> colonies into<br />

one united nation in J<strong>an</strong>uary.<br />

‘<strong>The</strong> predomin<strong>an</strong>t word at the<br />

Commonwealth Celebrations was<br />

‘United,’ <strong>an</strong>d for their own sakes we<br />

hope the carriers will decide at their<br />

meeting on the twenty-third to adopt<br />

the term ‘United,’ as their watchword.<br />

<strong>The</strong>y have only themselves to blame<br />

that they are getting low rates <strong>an</strong>d the<br />

remedy is in their own h<strong>an</strong>ds, let them<br />

not be slow to take it.’<br />

❝ Elsewhere<br />

across New<br />

South Wales,<br />

carters <strong>an</strong>d<br />

carriers<br />

sought to<br />

establish their<br />

own local<br />

unions, which<br />

over time<br />

came together<br />

to form the<br />

modern<br />

Tr<strong>an</strong>sport<br />

Workers’<br />

<strong>Union</strong>.<br />

❞<br />

Org<strong>an</strong>ising beyond Sydney<br />


<strong>The</strong> controversial<br />

Billy Hughes<br />


As the Labor member <strong>of</strong> the NSW<br />

parliament for the western Sydney seat<br />

<strong>of</strong> L<strong>an</strong>g in 1901, William Morris Hughes<br />

was a logical choice to help establish<br />

the Trolly, Draymen <strong>an</strong>d Carters’ <strong>Union</strong><br />

by becoming its first president. Hughes<br />

lifted the public pr<strong>of</strong>ile <strong>of</strong> the young<br />

union, <strong>an</strong>d used his skills to help the<br />

union in industrial negotiations <strong>an</strong>d<br />

deputations to government.<br />

From the outset <strong>of</strong> his political career<br />

in the 1890s, Hughes attracted<br />

controversy. Billy Hughes was a<br />

physically small m<strong>an</strong> with a dynamic<br />

personality; he had the gift <strong>of</strong> the gab,<br />

able to argue a compelling case <strong>an</strong>d<br />

win people to his cause.<br />

Not everyone was impressed with<br />

Hughes. Harry Holl<strong>an</strong>d, a working class<br />

agitator, published People, a radical<br />

journal that regularly attacked Hughes<br />

in 1901. People described Hughes as<br />

a ‘fakir’, a magici<strong>an</strong> who ‘tricked <strong>an</strong>d<br />

fooled’ workers with his devious words.<br />

‘It is a pity that the Carters allowed<br />

Hughes lifted the public pr<strong>of</strong>ile <strong>of</strong> the<br />

young union, <strong>an</strong>d used his skills to help<br />

the union in industrial negotiations <strong>an</strong>d<br />

deputations to government.<br />

Facing page: a Claude Marquet cartoon from the<br />

Australi<strong>an</strong> Worker, 5 October 1916, depicting Billy<br />

Hughes building the ‘case’ for Labor.<br />

<strong>The</strong> controversial Billy Hughes<br />


themselves to be m<strong>an</strong>ipulated by this<br />

scab politici<strong>an</strong> as they have done. In<br />

due time they will recognise the error<br />

they have made.’<br />

Hughes’ career continued to flourish;<br />

he successfully r<strong>an</strong> as the <strong>of</strong>ficial Labor<br />

Party c<strong>an</strong>didate for the new federal<br />

seat <strong>of</strong> West Sydney in March 1901, <strong>an</strong>d<br />

moved from state politics to the new<br />

Commonwealth parliament, then based<br />

in Melbourne.<br />

Billy Hughes served as the<br />

Commonwealth Attorney-General<br />

in the Labor Government <strong>of</strong> Prime<br />

Minister Andrew Fisher between 1910-<br />

1913.<br />

Conscription<br />

In 1916, during the brutal conduct<br />

<strong>of</strong> the First World War, Labor<br />

Prime Minister Billy Hughes, who<br />

had succeeded Andrew Fisher a<br />

year earlier, decided to support<br />

the introduction <strong>of</strong> conscription<br />

for overseas military duty. <strong>The</strong><br />

labour movement was opposed to<br />

conscription, believing that Australia’s<br />

volunteer forces, <strong>an</strong>d the work<br />

performed by workers within Australia,<br />

were sufficient sacrifices for the war<br />

effort.<br />

Hughes’ decision split the Labor Party<br />

<strong>an</strong>d the government. In September<br />

1916 Hughes was expelled from the<br />

Labor Party. On 4 October 1916 the<br />

Trolly, Draymen <strong>an</strong>d Carters’ <strong>Union</strong><br />

voted to expel Hughes. At the same<br />

meeting Mick Connington tendered<br />

his resignation as secretary, as did the<br />

union’s org<strong>an</strong>iser, J. D. Rudd.<br />

Connington said that ‘he considered<br />

it was his duty to support Mr. Hughes<br />

in his campaign, <strong>an</strong>d he could not<br />

conscientiously reconcile that attitude<br />

with his position as secretary <strong>of</strong><br />

a union which has voted against<br />

conscription.’ <strong>The</strong> meeting however<br />

passed a vote <strong>of</strong> confidence in<br />

Connington, in appreciation <strong>of</strong> his<br />

service to the union. As one newspaper<br />

commented, ‘it is no exaggeration to<br />

say that his loss will probably be felt<br />

40 <strong>The</strong> <strong>Birth</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>an</strong> Org<strong>an</strong>ising <strong>Union</strong>

❝ It is no exaggeration<br />

to say that his [Mick<br />

Connington’s] loss will<br />

probably be felt more<br />

severely th<strong>an</strong> the loss<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>an</strong>y other m<strong>an</strong> in<br />

<strong>Union</strong> circles.<br />

❞<br />

Happier times: Picnic Committee 1905.<br />

Front row, second from left: Mick Connington<br />

<strong>an</strong>d second row centre Billy Hughes.<br />

more severely th<strong>an</strong> the loss <strong>of</strong> <strong>an</strong>y other m<strong>an</strong> in <strong>Union</strong> circles.’ In the space <strong>of</strong><br />

single meeting, the union had lost its long-st<strong>an</strong>ding leadership team.<br />

Following the meeting, a number <strong>of</strong> Hughes’ supporters in the union dem<strong>an</strong>ded<br />

a r<strong>an</strong>k <strong>an</strong>d file ballot to seek Hughes reinstatement as President. <strong>The</strong> result <strong>of</strong><br />

the ballot was close, reflecting the sharp divide in Australi<strong>an</strong> society over the<br />

conscription issue: 1345 for Mr. Hughes <strong>an</strong>d 1471 against, a majority <strong>of</strong> 126.<br />

<strong>The</strong> controversial Billy Hughes<br />


A fitting tribute to a reborn union:<br />

<strong>The</strong> eight hour day parade in 1901<br />



<strong>The</strong> Trolly, Draymen <strong>an</strong>d Carters’ <strong>Union</strong><br />

was a proud particip<strong>an</strong>t in the gr<strong>an</strong>d<br />

Eight Hour Day Parade conducted<br />

through the centre <strong>of</strong> Sydney on<br />

Monday, 8 October 1901. Having first<br />

unfurled its new b<strong>an</strong>ner only a few<br />

days before, the parade provided <strong>an</strong><br />

opportunity to display the b<strong>an</strong>ner to<br />

the people <strong>of</strong> Sydney.<br />

It was reported that ‘the people <strong>of</strong><br />

the metropolis <strong>an</strong>d suburbs turned<br />

out in thous<strong>an</strong>ds’ to watch as ‘Labour<br />

celebrated in befitting fashion the<br />

<strong>an</strong>niversary <strong>of</strong> the concession <strong>of</strong> the<br />

principle <strong>of</strong> eight-hours’ work, <strong>an</strong>d<br />

the function was in its general aspect<br />

admittedly one <strong>of</strong> the most successful<br />

<strong>an</strong>d imposing that has been witnessed<br />

by the Sydney public for years.’<br />

It was estimated that between 14,000<br />

<strong>an</strong>d 15,000 unionists took part in the<br />

procession. <strong>The</strong> crowd was simply too<br />

large to accurately estimate: ‘spread<br />

over such <strong>an</strong> extensive line <strong>of</strong> route<br />

as that traversed by the numerous<br />

trades, it is impossible to give even<br />

<strong>an</strong> approximate idea <strong>of</strong> the numerical<br />

strength <strong>of</strong> the men, women, <strong>an</strong>d<br />

children who thronged the different<br />

thoroughfares, but the total must have<br />

been very huge indeed.’<br />

<strong>The</strong> 1901 parade was ‘the first eighthours<br />

demonstration in New South<br />

Wales under the aegis <strong>of</strong> the Australi<strong>an</strong><br />

Commonwealth’, <strong>an</strong>d ‘the unionists<br />

turned out in numbers never before<br />

excelled in the State’, both marching<br />

<strong>an</strong>d accomp<strong>an</strong>ied by a stream <strong>of</strong> drays<br />

bearing large union b<strong>an</strong>ners.<br />

‘<strong>The</strong> h<strong>an</strong>dsome b<strong>an</strong>ners <strong>of</strong> the unions,<br />

the m<strong>an</strong>y-coloured badges worn by the<br />

men who marched so briskly through<br />

the streets, <strong>an</strong>d the gaily caparisoned<br />

horses presented <strong>an</strong> ever ch<strong>an</strong>ging<br />

picture which pleased even the artistic<br />

taste.’<br />

<strong>The</strong> reporter also noted that ‘in labour<br />

all men are regarded as equal, so that<br />

the m<strong>an</strong> who represents labour either<br />

in the State or the Federal Parliament<br />

is expected to walk with the men.<br />

44 <strong>The</strong> <strong>Birth</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>an</strong> Org<strong>an</strong>ising <strong>Union</strong>

And they did so. Mr. Watson [John<br />

Christi<strong>an</strong> Watson, who became the<br />

first Labor Prime Minister <strong>of</strong> Australia<br />

in 1904], member <strong>of</strong> the House <strong>of</strong><br />

Representatives, walked with his<br />

former colleagues <strong>an</strong>d co-workers in<br />

the Typographical Society, Mr. S. Smith,<br />

M.L.A., stepped along with his old<br />

friends in the Seamen’s <strong>Union</strong>, whilst<br />

Mr. Hughes, M.P., [accomp<strong>an</strong>ied] the<br />

Trolly, Draymen, <strong>an</strong>d Carters’ union, <strong>of</strong><br />

which he is president.’<br />

<strong>The</strong> parade was a proud display <strong>of</strong> the<br />

work performed by union members.<br />

<strong>The</strong> Marble Workers ‘had a lorry on<br />

which some men were engaged in<br />

working a large block <strong>of</strong> stone. A brave<br />

show was made by the Shipwrights,<br />

<strong>an</strong>d their b<strong>an</strong>ner was followed by<br />

numerous models <strong>of</strong> yachts, sailing<br />

boats, <strong>an</strong>d a life-boat. <strong>The</strong> merry sound<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>an</strong> <strong>an</strong>vil heralded the approach <strong>of</strong><br />

the Coachmakers’ Society.’<br />

❝ <strong>The</strong> 1901 parade was ‘the first<br />

eight-hours demonstration in New<br />

South Wales under the aegis <strong>of</strong><br />

the Australi<strong>an</strong> Commonwealth’,<br />

<strong>an</strong>d ‘the unionists turned out in<br />

numbers never before excelled<br />

in the State’, both marching <strong>an</strong>d<br />

accomp<strong>an</strong>ied by a stream <strong>of</strong> drays<br />

bearing large union b<strong>an</strong>ners.<br />

❞<br />

‘<strong>The</strong> United Furniture Trade <strong>Union</strong><br />

contributed a most instructive display<br />

in the shape <strong>of</strong> a stringy bark hut on<br />

A fitting tribute to a reborn union<br />


a lorry, with a work-m<strong>an</strong> making<br />

the rude tables <strong>an</strong>d benches out <strong>of</strong><br />

saplings <strong>an</strong>d slabs, which comprised<br />

the furniture <strong>of</strong> a hut in the early<br />

days. Surmounting the hut was the<br />

legend “<strong>The</strong> furniture trade in 1801.”<br />

What added to the realism <strong>of</strong> the<br />

display was the fact that the hut<br />

was carried on a waggon drawn by a<br />

team <strong>of</strong> six bullocks, which the driver<br />

h<strong>an</strong>dled with great ability by me<strong>an</strong>s<br />

<strong>of</strong> his long whip.’ No doubt the driver<br />

was a Carters’ union member.<br />

❝ <strong>The</strong>n came the Trolly, Draymen, <strong>an</strong>d<br />

Carters’ <strong>Union</strong>, with the new b<strong>an</strong>ner<br />

that was unfurled the previous<br />

Friday evening in the Protest<strong>an</strong>t Hall,<br />

Castlereagh Street. <strong>The</strong> gold-trimmed<br />

b<strong>an</strong>ner floated magnificently over the<br />

brightly decorated dray <strong>an</strong>d the team<br />

<strong>of</strong> plumed horses.<br />

❞<br />

‘<strong>The</strong>n came the Trolly, Draymen, <strong>an</strong>d<br />

Carters’ <strong>Union</strong>, with the new b<strong>an</strong>ner<br />

that was unfurled the previous<br />

Friday evening in the Protest<strong>an</strong>t Hall,<br />

Castlereagh Street, by the Minister for<br />

Works, Mr. E. W. O’Sulliv<strong>an</strong>.’ <strong>The</strong> goldtrimmed<br />

b<strong>an</strong>ner floated magnificently<br />

over the brightly decorated dray <strong>an</strong>d<br />

the team <strong>of</strong> plumed horses.<br />

It was clear from the reception <strong>of</strong> the<br />

people, the press <strong>an</strong>d government<br />

authorities that the unions that had<br />

been driven into defeat in the 1890s<br />

46 <strong>The</strong> <strong>Birth</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>an</strong> Org<strong>an</strong>ising <strong>Union</strong>

❝ <strong>The</strong> Eight Hour<br />

Day Parade<br />

provided a fitting<br />

acknowledgement<br />

<strong>of</strong> the arrival <strong>of</strong><br />

the new union,<br />

as the respected<br />

org<strong>an</strong>ising union<br />

<strong>of</strong> trolly drivers,<br />

draymen <strong>an</strong>d<br />

carters.<br />

❞<br />

were welcomed in 1901 as legitimate<br />

representatives <strong>of</strong> working people.<br />

‘Passing the Public Works Department<br />

where the Minister for Works <strong>an</strong>d<br />

several <strong>of</strong> his colleagues were<br />

assembled, the Australi<strong>an</strong> flag was<br />

dipped, as the procession passed.<br />

<strong>The</strong> incident was acknowledged with<br />

rounds <strong>of</strong> cheers from members <strong>of</strong><br />

each union that passed. <strong>The</strong> flag on<br />

the Town Hall was, on instructions from<br />

the Mayor (Sir James Graham), flown<br />

on the tower <strong>an</strong>d was also dipped in<br />

honour <strong>of</strong> the procession.’<br />

In m<strong>an</strong>y respects the Eight Hour<br />

Day Parade provided a fitting<br />

acknowledgement <strong>of</strong> the arrival <strong>of</strong> the<br />

new union, as the respected org<strong>an</strong>ising<br />

union <strong>of</strong> trolly drivers, draymen <strong>an</strong>d<br />

carters.<br />

Eight Hour Day Parade,<br />

Sydney 1909. In the<br />

early years <strong>of</strong> the<br />

twentieth century<br />

these parades attracted<br />

wide support from the<br />

general public.<br />

A fitting tribute to a reborn union<br />


Sources <strong>an</strong>d further reading<br />

A r<strong>an</strong>ge <strong>of</strong> historical newspaper sources<br />

were researched for this publication,<br />

including the Sydney Morning Herald;<br />

Worker (Sydney); Evening News; Sunday<br />

Times; People; <strong>The</strong> Catholic Press;<br />

Western Herald (Bourke); Barrier Miner;<br />

Cumberl<strong>an</strong>d Argus <strong>an</strong>d Fruitgrowers<br />

Advocate; Bombala Times <strong>an</strong>d Monaro<br />

<strong>an</strong>d Coast Districts General Advertiser.<br />

Photograph sources: pp.5, 7, 10, 12, 13, 14,<br />

15, 17, 23, 24, 26, 34 State Library <strong>of</strong> NSW;<br />

p.39, National Library <strong>of</strong> Australia.<br />

For further details <strong>of</strong> the establishment<br />

<strong>of</strong> the Trolly, Draymen, <strong>an</strong>d Carters’ <strong>Union</strong><br />

<strong>an</strong>d its formative years see Mark Bray <strong>an</strong>d<br />

Malcolm Rimmer, Delivering the Goods, a<br />

history <strong>of</strong> the NSW Tr<strong>an</strong>sport Workers <strong>Union</strong><br />

1888-1986, Allen & Unwin Sydney 1987.<br />

Note on spelling<br />

<strong>The</strong> union was registered as the Trolly,<br />

Draymen <strong>an</strong>d Carters’ <strong>Union</strong> <strong>an</strong>d all early<br />

material, including the union’s b<strong>an</strong>ner,<br />

uses this spelling. Later accounts have at<br />

times referred to the Trolley, Draymen <strong>an</strong>d<br />

Carters’ <strong>Union</strong>. This book uses the spelling<br />

as designated by the union’s founding<br />

members in 1901.<br />

About the author<br />

Dr Mark Hearn has published a number<br />

<strong>of</strong> books <strong>an</strong>d articles in the historical<br />

<strong>an</strong>d contemporary <strong>an</strong>alysis <strong>of</strong> work<br />

<strong>an</strong>d unions, including Working Lives,<br />

A History <strong>of</strong> the Australi<strong>an</strong> Railways<br />

<strong>Union</strong> (NSW Br<strong>an</strong>ch), Hale & Iremonger<br />

1990; One Big <strong>Union</strong>, a national history<br />

<strong>of</strong> the Australi<strong>an</strong> Workers <strong>Union</strong>,<br />

1886-1994 (co-authored with Harry<br />

Knowles), Cambridge University Press,<br />

1996 <strong>an</strong>d Working the Nation, Working<br />

Life <strong>an</strong>d Federation, 1890-1914, (coedited<br />

with Greg Patmore), Pluto<br />

Press 2001. He was the co-editor <strong>of</strong><br />

Rethinking Work: Time Space Discourse,<br />

published by Cambridge University<br />

Press 2006. During 2002-2005 he was<br />

a sesquicentenary post-doctoral fellow<br />

in Work <strong>an</strong>d Org<strong>an</strong>isational Studies<br />

at the University <strong>of</strong> Sydney. He is<br />

currently a lecturer in the Department <strong>of</strong><br />

Modern History <strong>an</strong>d Politics, Macquarie<br />

University. Dr Hearn is the co-editor <strong>of</strong><br />

the online workplace relations magazine<br />

workSite <strong>an</strong>d <strong>an</strong> associate editor <strong>of</strong><br />

Labour History.<br />

48 <strong>The</strong> <strong>Birth</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>an</strong> Org<strong>an</strong>ising <strong>Union</strong>

<strong>The</strong> Tr<strong>an</strong>sport Workers’ <strong>Union</strong> has a long <strong>an</strong>d proud history in<br />

New South Wales that stretches back for 125 years. <strong>The</strong> Trolly,<br />

Draymen <strong>an</strong>d Carters’ <strong>Union</strong> was first formed in 1888. <strong>The</strong> <strong>Birth</strong><br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>an</strong> Org<strong>an</strong>ising <strong>Union</strong> focuses on the union’s revival in 1901, a<br />

year that marks the reorg<strong>an</strong>isation <strong>of</strong> the union that became<br />

the modern Tr<strong>an</strong>sport Workers’ <strong>Union</strong>.

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