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Tuesday, 31 August 1920

Mr GREGORY (Dampier) .- I move -

That the following new clause he added: - " 19. After section 58a of the principal Act the following section is inserted: - 58b. The rules of an organization under this Act and the officials of such organization shall not, during the currency of an award in the industry concerned, prevent or impede any members of such organization from entering into written agreements in accordance with such award at any time prior to the commencement of service.'"

The amendment would prove useful in connexion with not only the pastoral industry, but sugar-cane cutting, since it would enable members of an organization to make their arrangements or to enter into contracts with employers some time before the actual date of starting work. The special reasons supplied to me for this proposal are as follow : -

1.   The signing of an agreement is the only way of binding an employer on the one hand to keep a pen for the man engaged, and, on the other hand, of binding an employee to commence his work on or about a given date.

2.   In order to organize the supply of shearing labour for pastoral requirements, definite engagements must be made in advance and prior to roll-call; until the shearers, shedhands, and wool-spressers are engaged, it is impracticable to safely engage woolclasser, expert, overseer, and other men required.

3.   If agreements are not signed before rollcall the experience in the past has been that at some sheds there is an over-supply, and in others an under-supply, of the labour necessary for the shearing, and that men make unnecessary trips to stations at a great distance without being sure of obtaining work when they get there.

That should be obvious to honorable members generally. If it were possible for members of organizations to enter into an arrangement some time before the date fixed for commencing operations, there would be less likelihood of men travelling long distances to reach a shearing shed, only to be disappointed on arriving at their destination. In these days of labour shortage particularly, this is a very important consideration. The. Australian Workers Union until 19 18 had no objection to shearers signing on in advance of shearing operations. The men were in the habit of sending in their names or of entering into arrangements either with the contractor or the pastor alist to shear his sheep; but since 1918 the union has objected. It has a rule that members may forward their deposits, but must not sign agreements before roll-call. Since 1918, however, the rule has been suspended during each shearing season. That is not a good thing for the industry.So long as men work in accordance with the award relating to the industry, I cannot understand why any objection should be made to these arrangements.

The present system is very unfair. Where the members of the organization have not made any contract prior to the date fixed for starting operations, the pastoralists and cane-growers are left absolutely in the hands of a few men. That, I am sure, is quite contrary to the wishes of the Australian Workers Union. That union has always been anxious that its members shall carry out their obligations under the award of the Court. That is all we are asking for - that the rules of the organization shall not enable it to prevent men engaging in this class of work on contracts made some time before they actually commence operations. I hope the Minister (Mr. Groom) will not object to the amendment, for he knows the difficulties of the industry, and how irresponsible men are at times able to cause a great deal of trouble, especially in the back country, by flouting an award. I am sure there is no desire to support men who do that kind of thing; and, under the circumstances, my proposal is to enable the shearer and the cane-cutter to be quite sure of employment, and employers to make arrangements for the entire season. In Western Australia, under the conditions I am advocating, continuous work is provided from about March to the end of November. I can assure the Minister and honorable members that those interested in this amendment have the highest authority for saying that it is quite constitutional.

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