A Short History of the Port Kembla Waterside Workers Branch from 1939 to the End of the War
In November 1936, when I arrived at Port Kembla, accompanied by my brother, we were shocked at the absence of any working conditions. In these days there was not a single condition in the Port. There was no meal money, no minimum period of engagement, nowhere to have meals, 24 hour shifts, a bull system, brutalisation of labour in many ways by handling pig iron, 80 or 90 pound ingots of pig iron, 90 pound ingots of lead. These all had to be stacked into large buckets, lead into large sling loads, and this work was demanding because the hook was always in single gear, was racing in and out and the hook was always waiting on the men below; and so it means that whilst one tub went out, the other tub commenced being filled by a section of the labour force down below and by the time the other tub came in the tub had to be filled. And so it was continuously in and out with the cargo winches running at full speed. We were able to institute many campaigns on the job itself, either for safety or for insisting on the break down of the workload, and as a consequence we were victimised regularly.