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Inside History


1.  Certificate of Registration
2.  Organising the Export Works in Queensland
3.  Organising the Export .. page 2
4.  Organising the Export .. page 3
5.  Organising the Export .. page 4

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At this years biannual Federal Council in Brisbane Tom Hannan, our National Secretary, announced he would not be seeking to recontest his position at Council 2004.


The Tasmanian Branch will be ever indebted to Tom as he was instrumental in reorganizing the branch and played a key role in mentoring branch officials and delegates.


Tom started working as a slaughter floor labourer at the Riverstone Meatworks in 1953, he was 14 years and 9 months old.  When he was 20 he became a delegate and became involved with the union at various levels during his time at the plant.


In 1968 a major dispute started and involved all the major employers known collectively as the "Dirty Dozen".  This employer group was seeking one award incorporating the unit tally system as opposed to the head tally system that has always operated in NSW.


In 1973 Tom stood for the position of NSW Organizer and was elected, then in 1981 stood for Assistant Branch Secretary where he also was elected.  Tom took over the reigns of the NSW Branch in 1984 and became Federal President in 1985.  Then in 1992 he became Federal Secretary where he held this position until his retirement in September 2004.


The Tasmanian Branch wishes Tom all the best in his retirement as his quick wit and colourful language will be sincerely missed.





The History of the Union

Compilation and comment by Tom Hannan - Federal Secretary

The union was registered in 1906 as the Australasian Federated Butchers Union and the name was changed in 1912 to the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union.  Whilst this is still the official name in 2002 we are better known as the 'Meatworkers Union'.

In between 1906 and 1920 some states, in particular Queensland, were organised by American activists known as the International Workers of the World.  They encouraged workers to set up  boards of control on each of the jobs.  These boards of control were very strong in North Queensland and were able to get very good conditions and also controlled production levels by whatever means were available.   The sheds became so well organised that they reached agreement  with the employers that the union office supplied all labour to the employer.

Enterprise bargaining. preference of employment and disputes procedures are seen as new innovations in industrial relations but they have been around in the meat industry for almost 100 years.  How's this for a preference of employment clause -- the vogue in 1911:

1. PREFERENCE OF EMPLOYMENT shall be given to members of the Queensland branch of the Australasian Meat Industry Employees' Union, provided that the members so employed are competent workmen and do their work to the satisfaction of the Management.:

2. The union undertakes to the best of its ability to supply the Management of each works with all workmen required.

3. In the event of the Union not being able within a time to be mutually agreed upon, to supply workmen required, the Management may engage such workmen elsewhere.

4. Foremen shall have the right to place the employees in their departments in their respective positions, and may also dispense with the services of any employee or employees for incompetence, drunkenness, or unsatisfactory work.

5. In cases of emergency, the Management may transfer employees, (other than those on tally rates) from one department to another, provided that should such employees be found unsuitable in the latter department they shall be retransferred to the former one.

How much would unions like to have a  clause  like that in  their  award  or  agreement  today! Did it work?   The following report is from 1918:

Because of the implications for union organisation, the AMIEU attached considerable important to these preference provisions.  The effectiveness of the preference clauses in the Queensland logs stemmed from the accompanying provision that the labour for each works would be supplied through the union office.  This procedure meant that, henceforth, the companies had limited discretion in the selection of labour.  On the other hand, this confronted the union with a task of considerable magnitude, as McAuley, J., president of the Queensland Industrial Court, recognised in 1918:

In return for the grant of preference of employment, the unions undertake to supply the management of each works with all the labour required.  The unions have, in fact, supplied that labour.  Five thousand men are annually employed in the industry, and the supply of that labour, in work seasonal in its nature and subject to great fluctuations from year to year and in different parts of the State, has been a task of magnitude, for the performance of which the unions may well claim credit.  The industry has been most successful, and towards this success the unions have in large measure contributed.

While protesting bitterly against the number of 'undesirables' foisted upon them, the companies readily admitted the advantages of this arrangement.

Meatworkers today generally do their bit for charity donating to medical research, children's hospitals and other community functions.  In the early 1900's not much was different when meatworkers put huge emphasis on community affairs and established ambulance, hospital and fire services.  Schools, the arts and libraries were also established.

As you read through this history many of you will recognise the delegate structures that were in place in early 1900 and are still around and working today.

It is our intent to update the history pages of the website on a regular basis.

Having read the history of your union thus far, members must be wondering how long it will take to get back to where we started in 1906.

Best wishes for health and solidarity.


 Federal Secretary/Treasurer

Graham Bird

 Federal President

Kath Evans

 Federal Vice-President

Diana Sully

 Life of a Union Official


Taken from the Meat Union Journal of Tasmania May, 1967

Life of a Union Official


If he talks on a subject, he is trying to run things.  If he is silent, he has lost interest in the organization.


If he is seen at the office, why doesn't he get out?  If he can't be found, why doesn't he come around more often?


If he does not agree that the boss is a skunk, he is a boss's man.  If he calls the boss a skunk, he is ignorant.


If he is not at home at night, he must be out drinking.  If he is at home, he is ducking.


If he doesn't stop to talk, his job has gone to his head.  If he does, that's all he has to do anyway.


If he can't place a member in work who gets into trouble, he is a poor organizer.  If he does, that is what he is paid to do.


If he should give someone a short answer, we'll get him at the next election.


If he tries to explain something, he is playing politics.


If he negotiates a rise for his members, why didn't he ask for more?


If his suit is pressed, he thinks he is a big shot.


If he takes a vacation, he has had one all the year.


If he is on the job a short time, he is inexperienced.  If he has been a long time on the job, there should be a change.


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