Salient. Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 26, No. 4. Monday, April 8, 1963
Shand's Ultimatum A Sham
Shand's Ultimatum A Sham.
The ultimatum of the Minister of Labour to the Southland Freezing Workers was a sham.
The strike brought about by the alleged blacklisting of a union official was actually settled by the Fol president who allowed the Minister of Labour to settle the dispute because Mr. Shand's decision coincided with his own. What lay behind this superficially surprising situation?
The "blacklisting" of an official is of the highest concern to the trade union movement. A union cannot function effectively without representatives in the stores or shops where its members work. It must remain in close contact with its members if it is to represent them at all adequately.
Thus the practice of "blacklisting," if successful, can lead to the disintegration of a union. We would expect the Fol to adopt an uncompromising attitude towards it.
But the Fol did not do so. Shortly before Shand sent his "ultimatum" to the Southland unions, he met Mr. Walsh and it is therefore likely that the latter had prior knowledge of the telegram. The absence of any protest at any time by Walsh or any member of the Fol executive further indicates that its contents were substantially agreed with.
Several possible explanations can be advanced. Walsh was attempting to knock Otago Trades' Council president, W. B. Richards, out of the running for Fol office; the Fol "killed" a strike not organised officially through its channels; Mr. Walsh and his executive disapproved of the motivation of the strike.
Richards could certainly be a considerable nuisance to Walsh. Whether or not he is a Communist is irrelevant to this issue but his writings in the Nz Monthly Review show him to be what we might call an "activist" had this word not acquired sinister overtones. He believes that direct action by workers is the best way of protecting their interests and would accept strikes as a "normal" weapon, rather than keeping it in reserve as the Fol seems to favour. But Walsh would appreciate the seriousness of a "blacklisting" issue and only Nz Truth would be over-ready to accept personal interest as the reason for his decision.
Similarly although the Fol does not readily accept strikes organised without its approval, it would do so in a case such as this.
We are led then to the conclusion that Walsh and his executive did not regard the cause of the strike as significant. This implies that they did not accept the cause to be the "blacklisting" of an official worth the support of the Fol.
Either the refusal to employ Wesney was not regarded as the result of union activities or it was suspected that the strike was "rigged." We suspect that both factors affected Walsh's decision. And Richards announcement of both his and Wesney's candidacy for office in the union supports the view leading to this decision.
The strike achieved nothing but damage to the union concerned and to unions in a wider range.
The prestige of Mr. Shand rose in many quarters and the freezing companies can look with satisfaction on their victory—particularly if they overlook the part of Walsh and the Fol.
It is again demonstrated that strikes should not be initiated without a solid base of support within the union, within other unions and with a grievance such that there is a chance of victory.
Strikes are a useful and even critical weapon of last resort but in any other circumstances damage only the trade union movement.
—G. R. Hawke.