“Parliament, in the last 100 years or so, has a lot to say about conditions of work and the relationship between employers and their employees” (Deeks & Rasmussen, 2006). There have been many industrial disputes regarding the arbitration system between 1894 and 1991 which has influenced changes to New Zealand Employment Relations. One of the many industrial disputes was the waterfront industrial dispute 1951. This dispute in New Zealand’s labour history is the biggest industrial dispute that has influenced changes to Employment Relations legislation.
Although it was not as violent as the great strike of 1913, it lasted longer-151 days, from February 15th to July 15, and involved more workers (Scott, 2001). The 1951 dispute pitted the government and public against the Watersiders after they decided to work to rule in protest at their employers’ refusal to award them a 15 per cent pay rise (Kay, 2008). At its peak, 22000 waterside workers (wharfies) and other unionists were off the job out of the population of just under two million (Ministry for Culture and Heritage, Today in History, 2007).
This essay will discuss the effects, outcomes and influences of the 1951 waterfront industrial dispute thus how it turned the New Zealand Employment Relations around in order to avoid disputes as such from happening and also create a better relationship between the employers and the employees today. The historical events regarding New Zealand employment relations are really quite wide spread. Many events such as strikes and lockouts have happened regards to compulsory arbitration. In 1894 Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act (IC ;A Act 1894) was designed to replace industrial action with conciliation ; arbitration.
This was implemented to bring negotiation and disputing sides together to solve industrial conflicts. ‘Unions registering under the act effectively got exclusive organising and bargaining rights’, (Rasmussen ; Deeks, 2006, pg 52). Unions played important interest groups during this time. They helped to promote employee interests to satisfy work goals such as better wages thus they became the legally recognised voice of the workers in a particular industry.