|Introduction - 113 years of Struggle|
1889 - 2002 and beyond...
Long hours and low wages for a six-day week compelled shop butchers to form the Brisbane Butchers Employees Union in late 1888 and early 1889. It quickly found support from butchers in country areas in south Queensland and changed its name to Brisbane District Butchers' Union. It disappeared in the big anti-union onslaught after the defeat of the early nineties.
After several attempts, it was finally revived in 1906. It based itself on the workers in the export industry which had grown and expanded in the preceeding decade. A primitive form of unionism already existed in individual meatworks, where workers elected committees to negotiate with the employer for the wages and conditions for the season. By 1910, a statewide union, covering all sections of the industry, had been built on solid foundations.
This centenary booklet outlines some of the highlights in the growth of the industry and the union. It tells of the struggle against the harsh and gut-wrenching work in primitive conditions and how the workers by solidarity and unity won better conditions. Our union has a proud history.
From the hardships, the defeats and victories, meatworkers-men and women-have developed a unique form of comradeship and mateship. The democratic form of organisation, which of necessity emerged in the sheds before the union existed, has been jealously preserved.
The pioneers of our union were staunch and true unionists, often beaten, but never conquered. This centenary (1989) year, we honor them and express our deep gratitude for their efforts and sacrifice. Today we enjoy conditions which were won after long and bitter struggles.
I dedicate this small contribution to our pioneers and to record our union's proud past for future generations.