Workers in the Margins

Workers in the Margins

Union Radicals in Post-War New Zealand

‘Marginalised’ workers of the late twentieth century were those last hired in times of plenty and first fired in times of recession. Often women, Māori, or people from the Pacific, they were frequently unemployed, and marginalised within the union movement as well as the labour force.

Workers in the Margins tells the story of these workers in the tumultuous years of post-war New Zealand. These were years characterised by massive changes in the workforce, as it expanded to accommodate a growing urban Māori population and an increasing desire for women to enter paid work. The world of trade unions and employment conflicts, such as the 1951 waterfront lockout, was vigorous and challenging. As free-market policies deregulated the labour market and splintered the union movement toward the end of the century, Te Roopu Rawakore o Aotearoa, the national unemployed and beneficiaries' movement, gave a new voice to ‘workers in the margins’.

The people of this history come to life through oral histories – from the poet (and boilermaker) Hone Tuwhare building a palisade at Orakei through to activists Sue Bradford and Jane Stevens working with the unemployed in the 1980s and ’90s. Their experiences speak to the lives of many workers of the early twenty-first century.

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Table of contents

Introduction – Workers in the Margins

1. Māori Union Men, their Socialist Comrades, and the Freezing Workers’ Unions, 1943–1978
2. Private-sector Union Women, their Feminist Comrades, and the Trade Union Movement, 1955–1981
3. Organising Unemployed Workers’ Unions, 1978–1985
4. Union Allies Divide: Political Independence and Māori Sovereignty, 1984–1987
5. Union Strategies in Hard Economic Times, 1985–1990
6. Busted Unions and Painful Renewals, 1990–1994


Print publication:
Ebook publication: Dec 2018
Pages: 260
RRP: $49.99
ISBN: 9781927131398
ISTC: A0220120000214A4
DOI: 10.7810/9781927131398

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'Locke's book is history at its best, turning the searchlight of past experience onto issues that still challenge all those who would stand with the poor and disadvantaged.' Chris Trotter, The New Zealand Listener

'Cybèle Locke’s imaginative use of oral history has allowed her to bring to life some significant ‘grass roots’ figures and to recapture the mood and texture of a radical movement. … a substantial contribution to New Zealand scholarship that will be of great interest to all those concerned with social justice.' Erik Olssen, Emeritus Professor, University of Otago