The Anatomy of a Strike: Wentworth Proprietary Co. Ltd, Orange, New South Wales 1897

Clive Beauchamp

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    Abstract

    This study analyses the background to and traces the course of the 13-week strike (involving 400 workers) at the Wentworth Proprietary Company gold mines at Lucknow, near Orange, New South Wales in 1897. The paper discusses the company's motives for reducing wages and instituting 'degrading' search conditions on employees. Were management's allegations of extensive ore pilfering merely a subterfuge? Why was the Mine Superintendent so intransigent in his dealings with miners' representatives? It also examines how ministerial interference with the role of the Mining Warden inadvertently led to the management being granted a suspension of labour conditions (preventing the lease being cancelled). This allowed management to continue operating by engaging 'black-legs' from interstate and re-employing surface workers ' thus breaking the strike. Cessation of the strike: searching relaxed and wage rates restored ' but a greatly reduced workforce. Significance of the dispute: highlighted the need for a compulsory arbitration system; ministerial intervention provoked a political storm that threatened the Reid Government; and the involvement of Labor Party members in the strike demonstrated how the parliamentary wing of the party could assist workers practically, countering charges of elitism.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-16
    Number of pages16
    JournalJournal of Australasian Mining History
    Volume2
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Sep 2004

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