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Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1894

The Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1894 was a piece of [2] The Act remained in force until 1973, but the essential structure it established was current until the Fourth National Government introduced the Employment Contracts Act 1991


  • Prelude to Arbitration 1
  • Workings of the Act 2
  • 1936 Amendment 3
  • 1961 Amendment 4
  • References 5

Prelude to Arbitration

The process by which the Act came into being needs study in its own right. It is based on a scheme devised by a South Australian politician, Charles Kingston.

Workings of the Act

Registration of unions under the Act was voluntary, and unions could choose to remain outside the Act and negotiate directly with employers. If a union registered it was bound to comply with the rulings of the Arbitration Court and could not, for example, strike against terms laid down by it. As a result, in the early 20th century, some militant and/or strong unions chose not to register. However most unions and their members benefitted from the Act, as few had the power to directly negotiate terms better than those laid down by the Court. The Act forbade the registration of unions where one already existed in the same industry and area. This prevented competition among unions. The Court was also able to make 'awards' which bound all employers and workers in a particular industry, and set down minimum conditions and rates of pay, although organisations not party to the original award could apply for a complete or partial exemption from the award.[3]

1936 Amendment

The First Labour Government's 1936 amendment had two major provisions: the 40 hour week and compulsory unionism. Awards could not require more than 40 hours work a week, not counting overtime, and this was to be arranged, where possible, so that no part of the working week fell on a Saturday. Exemptions could be made if a 40-hour week was impractical, but this rarely occurred. The amendment also made it illegal to employ a worker who was not a member of a union bound by the relevant award or agreement for that industry.

1961 Amendment

The 1961 amendment, passed by the Second National Government abolished compulsory unionism. However membership continued to be compulsory when unions and employers agreed that it should be, or if 50% of relevant workers voted for compulsory unionism in their industry. Even in cases where compulsory unionism did not remain in force, employers were still required to prefer union members if they were equally qualified to non-union workers. Hence the amendment had little practical impact.


  1. ^ Monumental Stories | Landmark
  2. ^ LABOUR, DEPARTMENT OF - INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS - 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
  3. ^ 1966 Encyclopaedia.
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