University of Tasmania
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Cooperation and labour management at Electrolytic Zinc and Cadbury-Fry-Pacall between 1918 and 1939

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posted on 2023-05-26, 02:36 authored by Ruth BartonRuth Barton
In the period between the First World War and the Second World War, the firms or Cadbury-Fry-Pascall (Cadbury) and the Electrolytic Zinc Company or Australia Ltd. (E.Z) were unusual because they had extensive welfare schemes and an almost complete absence or industrial conflict in an era that sometimes experienced quite violent industrial action. The coincidence or these two rectors was not accidental. Cadbury and E.Z had interpreted the bitter industrial conflict at the end or the First World War was not really a demand for more money but a protest against their living conditions. The two firms believed it was their obligation to cooperate with their workers and supply them with housing and other welfare benefits. This, they thought, would result in a content, committed and efficient workforce. The crux or both these companies welfare programmes was the planned creation or model industrial villages. The Cadbury scheme at Claremont and the E.Z scheme at Lutana both railed to reach the seals their creators had envisaged. This was basically because the companies did not want to bear the expense or building houses, and the workers did not want to live in the company sites. The other aspect of the welfare programme was the provision or medical schemes, pension funds and sporting and recreational activities and facilities. These schemes were well patronised end engendered in employees a feeling of commitment to the company. At both Cadbury and E.Z unionism was weak. This was in part because joint employer/employee bodies, such as the Works Committee at E.Z and the Factory Committee at Cadbury, undertook functions that are usually carried out by the unions. The workers at E.Z came under the Tasmanian Wages Board System, which often awarded lower wages and longer hours than federal Arbitration Court awards. Union attempts to gain coverage under the federal awards were successively defeated, thereby making union membership appear irrelevant. The workers at Cadbury were covered by two separate federal Arbitration Court awards for the men and woman. The awards were structured around the organisation of work at Cadbury, and classified women's work as unskilled and men's work as skilled. The effect of the sexual division of labour perpetrated by Cadbury was to make it difficult to organise the women and defined them, rather than the Company, as a threat to the men's wages and conditions. This was reflected in the unions tendency to fight amongst themselves rather than engage Cadbury. Overall the cooperative welfare centered industrial relations policies of Cadbury and E.Z enabled them, with the assistance or the state, to manage their labour force in such an effective manner they were able to virtually avoid industrial conflict for twenty years.


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