AWUNZ has a rich history behind its present structure.
Earliest documented accounts are contained in the thesis prepared by Stephen Kennedy while at Otago University. It was entitled ‘Really Concerned Men’ and was a labour of love for him in 1977.
His research traced five men who were the instigators of Labour and General Workers Unions in the late 1800’s.
Similar historical beginnings occurred in Christchurch, Timaru, Oamaru and Invercargill.
Labourers and General Workers worked on housing, roads, drains, farms and a whole range of other industries.
As towns grew, construction workers were the mainstay of the town based groups, either in construction of buildings or town infrastructures.
As farming grew, other groups of workers particularly in the Canterbury Region became unionised, and in doing so became part of what was becoming the Labourers and General Workers. This sector of industry was involved in grain and seed storage and handling and the wool industry.
As you will see from the dateline, what was occurring in the South Island was also occurring in the North Island.
In effect, provincial Unions were establishing themselves and consolidating themselves.
Throughout the 1900’s and with the arbitration system in place and the rapid expansion of inter-provincial growth of companies, together with the establishment of Local Authorities which were becoming major employers in respective provinces, it was long before provincially bases Unions amalgamated.
By the early 1930’s the Canterbury Otago Labourers and General Workers Union emerged from provincial growth and included North Canterbury, the West Coast, South Canterbury, North Otago, South Otago and Southland.
This Union expanded to provide extensive coverage and service to many trade related and general workers.
•Local Authority workers were the main membership base, this expanded to include Water Treatment / Service workers
•Parks and Gardens and other service sectors of Councils also became involved
•Construction Industry including Labourers, Concrete workers etc were soon interlinked with the current Cement Industry, the Lime Works, Brick Works etc
The Tiwai Smelter project which is linked to Manapouri was another project this Union was actively involved in and its upgrade in the late 1970’s.
In the 80’s, this Union was the Union charged with the responsibility of co-ordinating the Combined Unions on the Clyde Dam construction by a questionable private joint venture in Zublin Williams. This joint venture was responsible for the wedge jointing of the two halves, one half being built by the Ministry of Works, the other by the joint venture.
This was the first of what was going to be up to 7 dams on the Clutha.
It turned out to be the last Ministry of Works project, and the beginning of the demise of the NZ Workers Union, as the government strove to privatise almost all of the Ministry of Works; along with many other government owned services and facilities. The NZ Workers Union demise and joining to what had now become the NZ Labourers Union is what formed AWUNZ, and finally within the Southern AWUNZ area of operation, during the 1990’s.
As farming grew so did the Wool, Grain and Hide Sector. Other sectors joined including Groundstaff at Schools and Sports Facilities, Greenkeepers of Golf Courses, all expanded.
Site settlements also extended membership, notable projects in the South Island included, “Manapouri Power Project”, Fiordland.
In 1961 work commenced to drive a tail race tunnel 10 kilometres from West Arm to Deep Cove, and secure an underground station. Men were housed in a bush hostel. The work was hard and dangerous; the project was measured by man lives per mile. 16 men lost their lives on the project between 1964 and 1968.
One aspect of the site that is little known is that the Transliner the Wanganella was moved in Deep Cove as a hostel. The Library that was on board the vessel was secured after the project and to this day is the Unions Holiday Park in Endeavour Holiday and Fishing Resort. The Union sold the complex in 1999 to an ex-member [In recent times a $200 million upgrade by 250 men was completed with no loss of life].
The Employment Contracts Act had certainly desecrated Unions, it was during that time that the Canterbury Drivers Union deregistered and most Drivers from the Canterbury region and the West Coast who were members of their old union joined AWUNZ. The same occurred in Otago.
In Southland AWUNZ officials actively encouraged drivers to join to ensure continuity and stability of drivers conditions as deregulation of the Transport Industry had also destabilised drivers conditions of employment as a result.
1880’s Provincial Unions
1920’s Inter provincial Unions and getting bigger
1970’s National Union – NZ Laboures Union – National Awards/Local Agreements (3 regional NZ Laboures Union Branches, Northern, Central and Southern)
1990’s NZ Workers Union collapses, NZ Labourers Union accommodate the collapse. Amalgamated Workers Union New Zealand (AWUNZ) formed. National Federation – 3 regional AWUNZ registered separately Northern, Central, Southern. The 3 Drivers Unions in the South Island disappear and become part of Amalgamated Workers Union New Zealand Southern Incorporated with offices in Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill.