The 151 day waterfront lockout, and its eventual defeat, of militant workers is legendary, and widely recognised as the beginning of the end for one period of union militancy in New Zealand. Its story is widely known in political circles.
The 1949 Auckland Carpenters struggle, an epic battle prefiguring the 1951 dispute in many ways, has been almost completely hidden from history. It is an important part of New Zealand labour history, and yet its story – and its political lessons – are almost impossible to find out about now.
I had never heard of this struggle, or even of this union, prior to being asked to look into this particular dispute. It was, then, to my great surprise to discover that what happened in 1949 would easily be considered one of the defining struggles of New Zealand unions in the ongoing fight between labour and capital, between workers and bosses. [Read more…]