How Labour Governs. Vere Gordon Childe 1923
THE opposition of the Australian Workers' Union was the rock on which the One Big Union went to shipwreck. This great organisation was made the shield from behind which the alarmed politicians launched their attacks and the rallying point for the jealousies of craft union officials. There seem to be two main reasons for the A.W.U. hostility. In the first place they aimed themselves at being the One Big Union, and were, therefore, jealous of the new organisation. But more serious, their officers objected to its revolutionary policy. The A.W.U. was traditionally political, and its vast membership had been used as a machine for raising its officials to political honours. The revolutionary preamble of the O.B.U. seemed likely seriously to reduce the number of seats available for parliamentary aspirants in the Labour ranks. Finally, the A.W.U. officials looked with distrust upon the coal-miners' organisation, which had already robbed them of the Broken Hill section of the metalliferous miners and seemed likely to wield the preponderating influence in the new union.
Accordingly, though the Central Branch of the A.W.U. had been represented on the O.B.U. Congress in Sydney by J. H. Catts, M.H.R., and others, it quietly withdrew its support from the scheme there outlined after it had failed to secure the acceptance of an alternative and very mild preamble drawn up by Catts or its own scheme of organisation in contradistinction to the American model actually endorsed. So in Queensland, though an A.W.U. representative was actually appointed to the local O.B.U. Committee, by refusing to attend its meetings he succeeded in keeping propaganda work in that State hamstrung. Finally, the Annual Convention of 1919 ignored the appeals of the O.B.U. Committee and refused to take a ballot of their members on the question.
The indiscretions of the O.B.U. Committee eventually gave the A.W.U. officers an excuse for launching an open campaign against it. When the A.W.U. ignored the latter's request for a ballot of their membership on the question of dissolving in order to enter the proposed new organisation, the Propaganda Committee of the O.B.U. decided to go behind the backs of the A.W.U. officials and take a plebiscite of the rank and file on their own account. Such a threat was, of course, futile, since only the responsible officers of the union in possession of the roll of members and enjoying the proper authority could take a ballot that would reflect in any way the real sentiments of the members. Moreover the proposal to go behind the backs of the elected spokesmen of a great union exposed its authors to the charge of body snatching and treachery to union principles. It savoured of I.W.W. methods, and was compared to the attempt of the Nationalist Government to undermine the Miners' Federation by employing agents to canvass individual miners in favour of the Conciliation Committees after the Delegate Board of the Federation had definitely decided to have nothing to do with that machinery.
This resentment was fanned into fury by the language used by J. S. Garden, Secretary of the Sydney O.B.U. Committee, before the Social Democratic League in March, 1919, when he spoke of “white-anting the unions beginning with the A.W.U.” in the interests of the O.B.U. Garden's unhappy phrase was never forgotten. The A.W.U. bosses put the screw on the editorial staff of the Workers, and ordered them under pain of dismissal to reverse the policy of the papers and cease supporting the One Big Union. They readily yielded to economic pressure, and began to attack the skeleton organisation with as much vehemence as they had hitherto displayed in its favour.
But if the reasons animating the A.W.U. can be thus simply summarised it is by no means so easy to explain why the industrial unionists thought it necessary to construct an entirely new organisation instead of joining forces with the A.W.U. in their amalgamation movement. The answer is that they objected to the structure, policy, and personnel of the existing organisation. Instead of Divisions and Departments for the several branches of industry, the A.W.U. went in, as we have seen, for mass unionism, in which the balance of power was retained in the hands of one section – the pastoral shearer. Again the governing convention, instead of representing the several economic interests of employees in different industries, only reflected the more or less accidental grouping of workers by the locality in which they might happen to reside. So the criticism levelled by the I.W.W. against middle-class democracy (Chapter X) would apply equally to the government of the A.W.U. Moreover, with this structure, the detailed action by sections of the working-class, essential in the eyes of these theorists for success in the struggle against the master class, could not be ensured. That required, above all, that a paralysing strike could be called of the whole of the workers in one specific industry-building, mining, railways, etc. A union departmentalised on the American plan could carry out just those tactics. The A.W.U. branches, on the other hand, lumped together all workers in all sorts of disconnected industries just because they resided or worked in the same geographical area.
This difficulty might have been overcome by an extension of the system of industrial branches already applied in the case of the navvies in N.S.W. But the opposition of policies was more serious. The advocates of the One Big Union, though prepared to make some concessions both to the arbitrationists and the advocates of political action, were resolved on having a lengthy preamble prefixed to their constitution. It is open to doubt whether the Registrar of any Arbitration Court would admit a body under such a banner to the benefits of the Court. Certainly the nascent politicians in the A.W.U. thought it would be a serious obstacle to success at the polls.
The industrialists on the other hand regarded the policy of the A.W.U. as devoted solely to getting its officials into Parliament and then into Cabinet, regardless of the industrial interests of the workers it was intended to serve. And here we come to the real crux. The O.B.U. leaders looked upon the A.W.U. officials as a clique of reactionary intriguers and boodlers who were out for power. Hence their pursuit of a conservative revisionist programme, their devotion to political action. and their horror of revolutionary propaganda. They only wanted to absorb other unions, said the apostles of the O.B.U., in order to augment their own prestige, and were careful in the process to keep the balance of power in their own hands. To this end they dominated the policy of the union, manipulated plebiscites, and packed conventions. That is why they opposed a scientific form of organisation and clung to their antiquated geographical structure.
These contentions are so grave that they merit examination in some detail. For a strong case has been presented in support of them. It is in fact undeniable that the government of the A.W.U. is, and long has been, in the hands of the paid officials, who are in turn under the thumb of a smaller group at the top of the hierarchy. Such a state of affairs is the natural outcome of the A.W.U. structure.
As we have explained, the supreme government of the A.W.U. is in the hands of the annual convention. The members are represented on this Assembly by delegates of the branches chosen by plebiscite of the members therein. Owing to the vast area of these branches, only those candidates whose names are very widely known have a real chance of election. This circumstance gives the branch officers and organisers who travel about the branch area, publish reports in the Worker, and appear before Arbitration Courts, an incalculable advantage over the ordinary working members who can only be known as a rule to their actual workmates in a limited area. Thus it comes about that the majority - generally a large majority - of the delegates to Convention are branch officials or paid organisers.
Even the more progressive officials of the union have recognised the impropriety of this arrangement. At the Queensland Delegate Meeting-constituted like Convention of delegates from the Districts in that State-of 1914, Con Ryan proposed:
“That not more than one fully paid official should be elected from any district as a delegate to the branch meeting.”
He argued that it was wrong that officials should dominate Conference and regulate the policy they themselves would have to administer. Riordan pointed out that paid officers got elected because they were well known, and even Theodore declared:
“We are drifting into a policy of bureaucracy–of Government by officials for officials.”
At the Annual Convention a similar motion was also brought forward, and a delegate remarked that a plebiscite sometimes meant a monopoly for the best-known men.
As a remedy for what one delegate described as “star chamber control by officials” it was proposed at the 1916 convention to establish a system of initiative, referendum, and recall, whereby “10 per cent. of the members as a whole or in any one industry might petition new rules, censure officials and regulate their salaries.” This motion was vigorously opposed by the dominant clique, and only found five supporters. W. McCormack warned delegates against “catchy resolutions,” arguing that the resolutions discussed at Convention were all formulated by members of the union, and that the officials were annually elected.
Now, it is true that the vast majority of the resolutions on the Convention agenda emanate from meetings of the rank and file, at shearing-sheds or construction camps. But the number of such resolutions is stupendous – passing resolutions is a favourite pastime in off hours in the back country – so that Convention cannot possibly consider them all. Some selection must, therefore, be made, and it is reasonably easy to have really inconvenient motions shelved in this way. Moreover, Rule 62 allows the General Secretary to omit from the agenda published in the Worker, “resolutions containing irrelevant or improper matter,” provided he retains the original. Finally, no delegate from the meeting which originated a proposition is sent specially to advocate it, and it may, therefore, find no genuine exponent.
As to re-election in the A.W.U., as in most unions, this is a mere formality as far as the President and Secretary are concerned. W. G. Spence retained the Presidency from 1898 to 1916, when he was suspended and forced to resign, owing to his support of conscription. Donald Macdonnell was Secretary continuously from 1900 till his death in 1912, and his successor Grayndler is still in office. Dunstan has been Secretary for Queensland since the amalgamation with the A.W.A., while Bailey and Lambert have retained their positions as President and Secretary respectively of the Central (N.S.W.) Branch nearly as long.
The government of branches was even more oligarchic. Save in Queensland the Branch Executive is the supreme authority, and it is composed of delegates elected at a local committee meeting (Rule 75, 1919, since revised). No such committees were in existence at a number of centres of the pastoral industry within the Central Branch territory, and the local meeting would be likely to consist of the local office staff, and their personal friend, Jack Cullinan (Western Branch), in fact, told the 1918 Convention that under this system a few persons could elect an executive officer, and Arthur Blakeley asserted that the system of local committees had failed in N.S.W. because of the nomadic habits of the members who were on the move following their occupations.
The general branch meeting is held at the head office of the branch in June or July – early in the shearing season. That was a convenient time when the branch offices were in the middle of the pastoral districts, but since the Central Branch was transferred to Sydney in 1916 the working unionists have been de facto excluded, and the attendance restricted to members of Parliament, the branch officials and the office staff. Yet these “general meetings” have still power to exercise general control over the policy of the branch (Rule 53) and the organisers.
The latter, apart from appeals to the unrepresentative general meeting, are almost entirely under the thumb of the Branch Executive which may, on its own initiative, appoint additional organisers (Rule 58a), and suspend or dismiss any organiser for faults, or if his services are no longer required (Rule 58d). Now, as apart from the permanent officers the majority of the delegates to the Annual Convention are organisers or other employees even more directly under the control of the Executive, the official junta can control a large bloc vote at that gathering, since they can dictate to organisers and similar employees how to vote. (They are allowed to make guardedly militant speeches if they like, for that is good business.) It pays to keep on good terms with the junta, as an organiser's billet is in itself quite a pleasant one nowadays, and the junta can reward faithful service by making generous allowances for travelling expenses. On the other hand, an inconvenient critic can easily be punished. For example, in 1915 E. Lane came ninth in the ballot for the eight Convention delegates. Men a substitute was needed for one of the eight, Lane was deliberately passed over because of his recent scathing exposure of the Queensland junta.
So the deliberations of Convention are, it is said, secretly fettered by a Tammany system of cliquism and favouritism. Similarly all serious criticism of the officials in the Labour Press can be suppressed because of their share in the management of the Workers. The Australian Worker, published in Sydney, and circulating in N.S.W., South Australia, and Victoria, like the Westralian Worker and the Maoriland Worker (New Zealand), is entirely owned and controlled by the A.W.U., and the same union has a major voice in the management of the Queensland Worker. Control by the A.W.U., of course, means control by the official clique. And so it comes about that the columns of these papers are not really open to publish correspondence from members who have complaints to make displeasing to the official clique. For instance, in January, 1915, E. Lane, as Secretary to the Literature Committee of the Queensland Branch, wrote to complain that the committee had not been allowed the use of the funds voted by the branch the previous year for the purchase of propaganda literature. (The reason apparently was that the pamphlets imported by the committee from America encouraged a too-militant outlook to suit the tastes of the politicians.) His letter never appeared in the Worker, though the Standard, to which he sent a copy, published it! During 1918 Sydney Truth published a number of letters purporting to come from members of the union, which the writers said had been suppressed by the Workers. There is grave reason to doubt the authenticity of this correspondence, but, assuming that the letters were forgeries, their contents are intended to be convincing so that it is probable that these “complaints” were founded on facts.
An unmistakable instance of interference by the union officials is provided by the sudden reversal of the policy of the Sydney Worker in 1919. From the most unstinted eulogies of the Trades Hall O.B.U. in one issue we pass to equally unsparing condemnation in the next. Henceforth it begins to boost the A.W.U. as the one genuine O.B.U. for Australia, and to describe its rival as an engine of destruction. Yet every one in Sydney knew that Boote, the editor, was heart and soul behind the O.B.U.
But not content with stifling criticism and manipulating the decisions of Convention, the bosses have on occasions gone so far as to ignore the directions of that supreme body. We have already mentioned one such case in Queensland, but it was followed by a still more glaring breach. The 1915 Convention resolved to divide Queensland into two branches. The existing branch officers, however, issued through the Worker an appeal against the division, and by March persuaded the General Executive to suspend the decision of Convention, and to submit the question to a plebiscite of the members. During the ballot the whole machinery of the branch office was used to get a negative vote. The ballot was declared ineffective, and despite strong protests at the 1916 Convention the proposal was never put into force.
In accordance with the democratic theory on which the A.W.U. was originally founded, much is made of the referendum. But in practice the officials seem loth to use it for any serious question. Thus they stoutly refused to submit the question of joining the O.B.U. to the rank and file. It was only with the utmost difficulty after three years' struggling by the Left that the issue “Direct negotiation with the employers (strike) versus Arbitration” was submitted to a plebiscite vote. On the other hand, questions of the most vital importance have been settled by a couple of officers on their own responsibility. Thus the decision to hold the union aloof from the 1917 strike was made by the President and Secretary alone without consulting the Executive.
The “unscientific structure” of the A.W.U. has already been noted. As the I.W.W. put it, “The A.W.U. thinks it is on its way to become an industrial union, if it swallows up another union.” The reasons have now been revealed in the grasping lust for autocratic power of the officials. They desire to extend the membership of their union in order to swell their own importance, but they aim at keeping the unions that they devour in the most complete subjection possible. Where a union has come in with the status of an industrial branch like the R.W. & G.L.U., its relative independence has more than once been threatened by proposals that all N.S.W. should be under one branch. Moreover, the methods adopted to bring about some of the amalgamations were reputedly not over-scrupulous. It is authoritatively alleged that the A.W.U bosses bribed every one of the of the officials of the Federated Mining Employees, in order to get the metalliferous miners to agree to terms of amalgamation suitable to the A.W.U. Claude Thompson, Secretary of the Amalgamated Railway and Tramway Service Association, was to have a seat in Parliament secured by a faked selection ballot as the price of his support of the amalgamation between the A.R. & T.S.A. and the A.W.U. On the other hand, when the Barrier miners, distrusting the reactionary policy of the A.W.U., decided to throw in their lot with the coal-miners, the A.W.U. opposed before the Registrar of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court the application of the latter union for permission to amend its rules so as to include the metalliferous men of the Barrier. So Grayndler, Secretary of the A.W.U., ranged himself beside the Broken Hill Mining Companies against the A.M.A., and drew forth an indignant protest from the Broken Hill Branch of his own union.
Attention has already been drawn to the extremely conservative policy of the A.W.U. in its attachment to the Arbitration Court, and we have seen how that policy reacted on the amalgamation move in 1912, the success of the new amalgamation in Queensland, and the wages of shearers in the 1915-16 season, and have quoted the comments of the I.W.W. thereon. On the tactics of the union officials, after the expiration of the Shearers' Award in 1915, the comments of Mr. Justice Higgins in granting a new award of 30s. per 100 are worth quoting:
“The union got its members to wait patiently till the award should have expired and, as I know from certain conferences in my chambers, used all its influence to prevent men from claiming higher rates in the meantime than the award permits. This attitude is all the more to be admired in view of the steady increase in the cost of living even before the war and the violent increase during it.”
From the standpoint of the class-conscious industrialist these eulogies hardly redound to the credit of the A.W.U. bureaucracy, since they do not denote any sacrifice by those officials, but simply mean that they prevented their underpaid followers from extorting by direct action the increases that even the President of the Arbitration Court admitted were due, and which the successes of the outlaw strikes in northern N.S.W. showed might have been secured. The same applies to certain remarks made by Falkiner, M.H.R., a wealthy pastoralist:
“I rose chiefly to contradict a statement made by the Hon. Member from Darling, in which he tried to connect the Pastoralist Union with the I.W.W. He knows well that for many years, and especially during the last twelve months, the Pastoralist Union has been doing its best to retain in office the present officials of the A.W.U. because the I.W.W. section of it has been getting quite out of hand.”
At the time of the Big Strike the A.W.U. non-intervention policy looked to many as sheer treachery. It was argued that if the A.W.U. had obeyed the call of the Defence Committee and withdrawn the shearers and rural workers, the farmers' sons and other bushmen, who had come to Sydney as strike-breakers, would have had to go home again to look after the crops. Similarly, the agreement between the proprietors of the Port Pirie smelters and Secretary Grayndler, providing against strikes at the smelters during the war, made on September 17th at a time when the Barrier miners were on strike in sympathy with their comrades in the east, was looked upon as a further betrayal of labour.
The composition of the union is also remarkably middle class. In delivering judgment upon the application of Killeen for the deregistration of the A.W.U., Powers, J., states (April 14th, 1915)
“The evidence showed that barristers, members of Parliament, hotel-keepers, store-keepers, dentists, hairdressers, and many other employees not engaged in any work connected with the pastoral industry, had been admitted to membership of the union, while employers, not employees, had been elected as members and allowed to continue as members of the registered organisation of employees. They had been allowed to vote for the appointment of the Executive and the Executive generally determined whether claims were to be enforced against employers, to what extent, and how.”
The insinuation in the learned judge's remarks is obvious, yet he contented himself with ordering the union to enforce its rules more strictly in the future. The Court's direction was, however, got over by appointing members of Parliament and other unqualified persons “honorary organisers,” thus making them technically officials of the union and so eligible for membership. There is, further, no doubt that, as stated by the I.W.W. in their booklet already quoted, members of the pastoral section of the union were cocky farmers. Small farmers and their sons often leave their selections for a while to go shearing. Again, J. Bailey, the N.S.W. Vice-President, when running for the Monaro seat in the Labour interests, solicited the farmer votes as a fellow land-holder.
The inference generally based upon these facts is that the A.W.U bosses have been out for political power and the perquisites of office for themselves and their cronies. It is indeed admitted that those bosses-Lambert, Blakeley, and Bailey, etc.– had been the keenest critics of the politicians and political control from 1912 to 1916. But this is explicable on the assumption that they did not object to politicians in the abstract but only to any politicians but themselves or their tools. As Black and other parliamentarians had argued at the time, the A.W.U. officials were even then looking for seats for themselves, and used their criticisms of sitting members as a lever to supersede the latter on the coveted benches.
Certainly when the conscription split had created a number of vacancies in the Labour ranks, Bailey, Blakeley, Last, and other quondam critics hastened to offer themselves to fill the breach. During the 1917 elections, Bailey, Holloway, Last, and Lundie were so busy looking for seats that it was impossible to secure a quorum for a meeting of the General Executive of which they were all members, although there was most urgent business to discuss, namely, the framing of the union's claim for a new award from the Arbitration Court. General Secretary Grayndler admitted that he had been handicapped in the presentation of the union's claim by the absence of many officers.
Everywhere the A.W.U. has provided a ladder whereby the ambitious unionists have sought and often attained parliamentary honours. Some have gone so far as to argue that the whole campaign against Holman and his colleagues in N.S.W. and even the amalgamated movement itself which President Spence declared would be a considerable force in the political world, were merely stages in a gigantic conspiracy on the part of the A.W.U. bosses to turn the political movement into an instrument for their own advancement.
The last thesis is certainly far-fetched, and much of the other criticism here summarised must be discounted in view of the personal prejudices of the critics. The union's adherence to arbitration, for example, may only be due to the superiority of that method for settling industrial disputes and improving conditions. Certainly the union's experience of the alternative in the 'nineties had not been encouraging, and the plebiscite taken in 1919 showed that a large majority of the members were in favour of the Court. More recently the union has been prepared to revise that policy when it was obvious that the membership was ripe for a more vigorous move such as the strike for forty-four hours in 1920.
The same may hold good of political action which has been the policy of the union consistently from its earliest years. Its efforts were justified if not actuated by the proved necessity of controlling the politicians in order to extort effective labour legislation from them.
But making the fullest allowance for these considerations, the policy and administration of the union could not be regarded as satisfactory. The charge of bureaucracy is proved up to the hilt. It cannot be gainsaid that Labour papers controlled by the A.W.U. have shown an inclination to suppress legitimate criticism. The freest discussion of all aspects of the working-class movement in the Labour Press – and the Workers are more than mere union journals – is essential to preserve that movement from stagnation. Yet the attitude of the Workers on the O.B.U. and on the N.S.W. A.L.P. split that followed, shows the danger of permitting a single union or section to control the sole organ of proletarian opinion.
As to structure, the question of mass unionism cannot be decided here. It must, however, be said that despite McNaught, for Arbitration Court purposes, at least the A.W.U. – for instance, in Queensland – seems fully capable of looking after the interests of the multifarious classes included in the union. Admirable awards have been secured for miners, sewerage-workers, sugar-workers as well as shearers. Martyn's argument in the last sugar-workers' case was a brilliant example of lucidity, profound erudition, and clear comprehension and exposition of every detail of the cane-cutters' and mill-hands' tasks.
So, then, in 1919 the O.B.U. leaders found themselves standing in diametrical opposition to the officials of the A.W.U. as to aims, methods, and persons. The opposition of the largest union in Australia added to craft jealousy and parliamentary intrigue was fatal to their scheme. A few unions - the Waterside Workers and Trolley and Draymen - did, indeed, take a ballot of their members on the question of merging in the O.B.U., or Workers' Industrial Union of Australia, as it proposed to call itself; but as that body existed solely on paper all rejected the proposition except the C. & S.E.F. The coal miners and the Barrier A.M.A. did come in en masse, and called themselves the Mining Department of the W.I.U. of A. But the change of name by one union did not, of course, make a new union. In fact, the tactics of the O.B.U. leaders were at that juncture doomed to failure. It was vain to hope that the mass of existing unions would abandon utterly their existing identity and organisation to merge into a larger whole that was left hanging in mid-air.
On the other hand, their distrust of the A.W.U. excluded a process whereby some existing bodies might have amalgamated under the W.I.U. of A. scheme, and formed a nucleus organisation to which other bodies might later have gravitated. That might have been feasible. Instead the O.B.U. made an indiscriminate onslaught on all unions, and by its policy of “all or nothing” courted annihilation. It finally received its quietus when its leaders were expelled from the Labour Party in N.S.W., and allowed themselves to be manoeuvred into forming a new party in 1919. By that step they earned for themselves the title of “rats”; for the majority of unionists, to whom the Labour platform had become a sort of religion, saw no distinction between men like Garden and Willis who left that body to go further Left and those who, like Hughes and Holman, went over to the Right. At the same time their own minority broke up, suspecting Willis and some of their colleagues of seeking political honours by pandering to moderates. These preferred Sovietism or pure I.W.W.-ism.
Still the O.B.U. idea still lived, and at the All-Australian Trade Union Congress in Melbourne in July, 1921, the One Big Union scheme, preamble and all, was once more endorsed on paper. In the meanwhile the position of the A.W.U. had altered considerably. Despite all the intriguing of their bosses they had failed to dominate the new Labour Government in N.S.W., and Bailey had not even secured a seat in the Storey Cabinet. In the shearing industry, too, they had been forced to support a direct action policy to secure the forty-four hours week, and the comparative failure of the Labour Government to redeem its innumerable promises to the industrialists had induced a recurrence of militancy in the rank and file. So the A.W.U. bosses, having thrown over their former allies Storey and Catts (they had displaced the latter from the position of secretary to the Federal Caucus to make room for their president, Blakeley), were forced to find new supporters. So they reversed their attitude.
As an outcome of the Melbourne Congress an amalgamation between the A.W.U., the Miners, and the Waterside Workers was agreed upon in February, 1922. The miners now form the Mining Department of the A.W.U., and the Watersiders the nucleus of the Transportation Department, to which it is hoped that the Australian Railways Union and the Seamen will adhere later (the latter, indeed, only hung back because the A.W.U. will not abandon its rule excluding coloured aliens, of whom the Seamen actually include a few). As the price of their adherence the Miners have secured the adoption by the new A.W.U. of the preamble of the W.I.U. of A. and something like its structure on paper. But owing to difficulties anent the disposal of Trust Funds the scheme has not yet come into operation. It remains to be seen whether the change in the A.W.U. goes any deeper. For the moment it looks as if this apparent victory for the industrialists will cost them their ideals, and that while the One Big Union may be realised it will have to sacrifice its revolutionary idealism, and will degenerate into that state of soulless mechanism which seems to come over all Labour activities in the hour of their apparent triumph. As the Labour Party, starting with a band of inspired Socialists, degenerated into a vast machine for capturing political power, but did not know how to use that power when attained except for the profit of individuals; so the O.B.U. will, in all likelihood, become just a gigantic apparatus for the glorification of a few bosses. Such is the history of all Labour organisations in Australia, and that not because they are Australian, but because they are Labour. ADDENDUM – In the period of industrial depression which is now beginning the A.W.U. has suffered heavily. Called upon to prove its vaunted value as an industrial organisation, it has failed to protect even its most favoured section-the shearers. The Powers Award of May, 1922, reduced rates by 5s. per 100, and other items proportionately. So that pastoral wages were reduced to the 1917 level, though the cost of living is still far higher. At the same time the forty-four-hour week, which had been granted by the State award in Queensland and won by direct action in N.S.W., was refused. The A.W.U. thereupon advised its members to refuse to work under this award. But when an injunction was served upon the union forbidding it to uphold an illegal strike, its officers climbed down. The strike did indeed take place, but no reports thereof appear in the union journals – the Workers – and none of the union's well-paid organisers visited the danger zone. It was left to men like Arthur Rae, who had been expelled from the union for criticising its bosses, to organise the resistance to the employers' attack and go to prison for so doing.