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20 February - Points of view

During the strike, Melbourne newspapers printed many different views about the union action and the employers’ response. The union and its members explained their reasons for striking. Non-unionists stated their opposition to the strike. Housewives expressed concern for how they would pay their rent or mortgage, and farmers asked whether they would receive machinery they had ordered in time for the next harvest.

HV McKay, owner of the Sunshine Harvester Works, was often quoted in the papers. He stated his conviction that workers should be able to choose whether or not to join the union.

Excerpt from the Melbourne Argus, 20 February 1911

Excerpt from the Melbourne Argus newspaper on 20 February 1911 titled Union Methods Tyrannical and Despotic
National Library of Australia
A woman and her three children outside their home in Port Melbourne, 1906
A woman and her three children outside their home in Port Melbourne, 1906
Museum Victoria

Negotiating wages

HV McKay strongly resisted government interference in how he paid his workers at the Sunshine Harvester Works. He believed individual workers should negotiate wages with their employers. In 1904, McKay moved his business from Ballarat to Braybrook Junction, in part to escape the jurisdiction of the Wages Board system.

The Victorian Government established the first Wages Board in 1896 to regulate conditions in particular industries. In 1907 a board was established for the agricultural implements industry. It delivered its first wage determinations in 1909, setting the minimum wage for unskilled labourers at 3 shillings less than that proposed in 1907 by Justice Higgins.

Factories and Shops Acts, Members of Special Boards (including the Agricultural Implements Board), 1907

List of members of the Agricultural Implements Wages Board, 1907
Department of Labour
The Victorian Government Gazette, 20 March 1907
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