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Wednesday, 7 August 1946

Mr ROSEVEAR (DALLEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Similar agreements were also signed by the present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) and the Minister, for Transport (Mr. Ward). I propose briefly to traverse the original agreement in order to show quite clearly that thedefinition of " recognized tradesman " has been considerably widened in this bill. ,

Mr Holt - That is not the point.

Mr ROSEVEAR - With respect to the honorable member, I contend that it is relevant to the point. This bill deals with certain regulations which were promulgated following the making of an agreement between the Government and certain trade unions, under which it was agreed that the unions were to forgo a number of customs and' usages of their particular trades. One of the principal unions affected by the agreement was the Engineering Trades Union which had a very rigid system of apprenticeship and tradesmanship. In the engineering trade before the war, no man was recognized as an engineer unless he had served a fulltime 'apprenticeship at his .trade. When it became necessary to expand the engineering trades to meet wa'r requirements and . the number of engineers available was insufficient to cater for that expansion, the unions were approached and readily agreed to admit dilutees to the industry, subject to the important safeguard that after the war had terminated the Government would agree to revert to the customs and usages previously obtaining in the trade. The original agreement signed by the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) as Minister for Social Services provided that, as soon as the necessities of war no longer existed, the men who had sacrificed the customs and usages of their trade in order to submit to dilution would have their former rights restored. During this debate, there has been a lot of talk about trade union tyranny. The original agreement provided -

No "' recognized " tradesman-

A recognized tradesman at that time was one who had served a full apprenticeship - is to be discharged because of a reduction of work in his section whilst any of the " added " tradesmen are employed within that section, and when skilled labour becomes available restoration of the pre-agreement practices will be made.

Mr Holt - That is all right.

Mr ROSEVEAR - I am endeavouring to point out that the honorable member is trying to repudiate the provisions of the first agreement. I repeat that at that time there was no recognized tradesman other than the man who had served a full-time apprenticeship.

Mr Holt - No up-graded men?

Mr.ROSEVEAR.- There were no upgraded men then ; there were no dilutees. No persons who had not completed fulltime apprenticeship were being paid- full rates of wages.

Mr Holt - Does the honorable member contend that at the time no men had been elevated to the position of tradesmen and were being paid as such?

Mr ROSEVEAR - Yes. A recognized tradesman in the engineering industry was one who had served his full apprenticeship. The Engineering Union was then completely organized, and the agreement to keep recognized tradesmen in employment while other men were put off was part and parcel of the principle of preference to skilled unionists. Not only was the agreement signed by the ministerial representative of the parties opposite; it also recognized that the unionist, while forgoing the time-honoured principles of his union in order to meet the exigencies of the war, would have his full' rights restored to him after the war had terminated. It was realized then that in the event of work slackening the, first men to go would be the dilutees or added tradesmen. Let us look at that clause about which there has been so mucb discussion. The clause provides - " Recognized tradesman " means a person - who, in relation to any trade to which this Part applies -

(a)   was employed, prior to the eighth day of May, One thousand nine hundred and forty, as a tradesman;

That was the date of the first agreement -

(d)   has been granted a certificate of recognition as a recognized tradesman;

That gets right back to the original position. The man had to be either employed as a tradesman at the prescribed date or an apprentice who had served his time and had gained a certificate. But this is where this bill broadens the definition. The third classification covers " one who has completed his course of training as a trainee tradesman to the satisfaction of a local committee ". Prior to the signing of the first agreement, nobody was a recognized tradesman until he had served a full-time apprenticeship. This clause makes provision for the inclusion of men who had completed to the satisfaction of the local committee a course of training, as a trainee tradesman. The next important definition relates to trainee tradesmen. A trainee tradesman is defined as " a member of the forces (not being an apprentice) whose employment as a trainee tradesman in a trade to which this part applies; for the purpose of undergoing a course of training in an industrial establishment, has been authorized bya local committee ". Honorable members will see that this interpretation of a recognized tradesman is infinitely broader than- the definition included in the original agreement signed with the union.

I come now to the right of the unions to close their 'books. While the provisions of this bill remain the law, the unions will not be in a position to close their books except on the advice of a local committee, and there are good reasons for 'believing that that might be done because the committee is representative of the unions and the employers. If the employers were of opinion that a greater number of men were needed in a particular trade, surely they would not agree to the union closing its books. But the representatives of both employers and employees, and the chairman appointed by the Minister, might come to the conclu..sion that the trade was overmanned, and that the prospects of the industry were such that new men should not be introduced. Surely, in the event of a setback or economic depression, the partly trained men would be the first to be dismissed. The committee, as a responsible body, would be able to gauge the man-power requirements of the industry. That is all-important. It is rubbish to talk about faking ex-servicemen into this scheme, if here are no safeguards whereby, at any particular time, some responsible body an say, " The prospects of this industry are not bright, and there seems little possibility of its expansion. You should" not be encouraged to join it".'

Mr Anthony - That argument could be applied to every industry.

Mr ROSEVEAR - Does the honorable member believe that he does the ex-serviceman a good ' turn by inviting him to seek employment .in an industry whether there is work in it or not? "What would be the use of saying to such a man, " Come into this industry.. We shall train you, but as soon as we experience a setback, you must be the first to be r brown out?" In the last analysis, the employer would always give preference to the most skilled tradesmen in his shop. Honorable members would not do exservicemen a good turn by inviting them to go into an industry, the ramifications of which they do not understand. The conditions of the industry will be much better understood by a committee consisting of representatives of unions and employers presided over by a chairman nominated by the Minister. In' the circumstances which I have outlined, such a committee would say to the man, "In your own interests, you should consider looking to another industry for employment. If you join this industry, you might waste a couple of years of your life in being trained for a trade which cannot permanently absorb you ". All of us remember that after World War I. men were encouraged temporarily to go into industries which were doomed to fail. We no longer desire to put square pegs into round holes. Every man should he given an opportunity, as far as is practicable, to follow the calling for. which he is best suited. This bill, in effect, not only broadens the interpretation of " recognized tradesman ", but also says to the man who has been in the services, " Provided there is work" or prospects of continued employment in an industry, here is an opportunity which you probably never had .before to learn a useful occupation ". I have followed this matter very closely. Frankly, as a trade unionist, I had. grave misgivings when the engineers were the first to sign the agreement, because I know how easy it is. years afterwards, for one of the contracting parties to shirk its obligations, and that is exactly what is happening to-day. When the agreement was negotiated on behalf of the Menzies Government, Ministers did not talk about ex-servicemen. The added tradesmen, the dilutees, were wanted then, but the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) said to-day, " They are all right in war-time, but, in peace-time, I will fight them to the last ditch ". He meant that he would sign a solemn agreement or support a Ministry that signed a solemn agreement in order to ensure the production of the weapons of war, but -that, when the war. was over and he did not need munitions to protect his hide, he would repudiate his pledge.

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