To highlight the rich and complex history of Australian working class experience and business enterprise as revealed in the transcripts of Commonwealth and State arbitration proceedings.
The publication of papers in Labour History coincided with the centenary of the Harvester judgement. This is intended as an ambiguous commemoration, reflecting the ambiguities of a judgement that drew inspiration from the evidence presented in the proceedings while judiciously overlooking key issues and contradictions – the inadequacies of a seven shilling per day minimum wage, the inability of Sunshine Harvester workers to present evidence for fear of employer victimisation, Higgins concern to protect an Australian enterprise and the prerogatives of its managers. Harvester clarified Higgins' intention to use the Court to play a role in Australian nation building and to uphold managerial prerogative while acknowledging a selective range of rights for a predominantly male workforce and their union representatives, an approach that was followed by Higgins' successors in the Commonwealth and state jurisidictions.
The Harvester case also revealed the forensic interrogative approach that was adopted thereafter by the Court, and which produced resonant and compelling accounts of working class experience and business enterprise available in few other sources and rarely in such comparable detail. The project aims to highlight a vital source for labour and business history too often neglected by historians and social scientists. The project also argues that focusing on the transcripts of evidence may significantly alter the interpretative perspective and challenge prevailing assumptions about the nature and influence of Australian arbitration.
A thematic section based on the project was published in Labour History in November 2007. Articles from this edition of Labour History can be accessed via the Labour History website.
WORKING LIFE, ENTERPRISE AND ARBITRATION
Sifting the Evidence: Labour History and the
Reconciliation and Conciliation: The Irreconcilable Dilemma of the 1965
Mobilising at the Workplace: State Regulation and Collective Action
Making Liberal Citizens: Justice Higgins and His Witnesses
‘The skilful unskilled labourer': The Decline of Artisanal Discourses of Skill
A Theatre of Words and Wages: Reading the Script of the Harvester Hearing
‘War conducted under certain rules, but nonetheless war': Arbitration, Capital and Labour in the Western Australian Gold Mining Industry, 1901-14
The Dirtiest of Jobs: Maintaining Sydney's Sewers, 1890-1910
[Research Note] Industrial Arbitration Transcripts and Related Sources
Interrogating Arbitration: Reflections on Work, Nation and History