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My Union Right or Wrong.
A history of the Ship Painters and Dockers Union 1900-1932
By Issy Wyner


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J. Hagen

J. HAGEN was elected to the Committee of Management at the Half-Yearly Meeting on 10th January, 1927.

In April, he joined with J.Terry in pressing for action over Ironworkers doing painting on structural work, but it was decided not to take action until the Secretaries of the two unions met and discussed the matter. But McDonald reported to the next meeting that Stacey of the Ironworkers Union, had declared that "the onus was on the Painters and Dockers Union to take action", arising from which a motion by Terry and Hagen was carried

That this Union refuse to work overtime until the Ironworkers cease doing painting on structural work…. (Minutes, 23/5/1927.)

At the same meeting, Hagan and Feilberg sought to change the fortnightly meetings to monthly. When put to a vote, it was defeated.

The half-yearly meeting in July began with a decision to extend condolences from the Union to James Hagen, on the death of his wife, carried by all present standing in silence. (Minutes, 11/7/1927.) The minutes also noted Hagen as the Treasurer, although no record showed Witton being displaced from this position.

Hagan seconded a motion by Alf. Hindman to call a stop work meeting to consider striking a levy of 1/-d. per member to support an appeal for funds by the Labor Daily through its Chairman, Bob Heffron (who later entered Parliament and eventually became Premier of New South Wales. At the time, he was also Secretary of the Marine Stewards Union and was described by McDonald, when thanking him for attending the meeting, as a "fighter in the interests of the workingclass".) (Minutes, 8/8/1927.)

On being advised by the ALP that it had formed a Transport Group, the Union elected four delegates, including James Hagan, to represent it at meetings of the Group. (Minutes, 28/11/1927.)

In the Half-Yearly elections for 1928, Hagen was elected as Treasurer and as a member of the Management Committee. (Minutes, 9/1/1928.)

When McDonald reported on the serious condition of a member, J.Milne, "laid off for some considerable time and in all probability he will not be able to work again", members in various yards offered to take around collection lists for him. Hagan, employed at the Adelaide Steamship Company yard, took lists for contributions at that yard. (Minutes, 14/5/1928.)

At a Special Meeting, Hagan tendered his resignation from the position of Treasurer over a dispute in the Union Rooms when he claimed that the Secretary had included the names of unfinancial members in the ballot for a job. McDonald denied the accusation and presented lists of names to show that all members were financial at the time. Hagan, however, persisted with his resignation and was replaced as Treasurer by Jack Sylvester. This election created a vacancy on the Management Committee, where Sylvester had been a member and was now replaced by Hagan(!) (Minutes, 29/10/1928.)

O’Keeffe proposed that the Union make a donation of £50 to a Labor Defence Fund and Hagan seconded it. The end result of the debate on the matter was that the motion and an amendment to donate £20 were both defeated. (Minutes, 29/10/1928.)

At a later meeting, Hagan supported a motion requiring the Secretary to seek the employment of more men at the Manly Ferry Company and then raised the question of Professional Painters doing "our work" at the Sydney Ferries Company. But while the motion concerning the Manly Ferry Company was carried, the Sydney Ferries matter was left to the Secretary to check the claims by the other union that its members had been doing that particular class of work for many years, and Hagan went along with that approach. (Minutes, 12/11/1928.)

James Hagan once more nominated for the position of Treasurer in 1929, and was defeated by Jack Sylvester, but he was again elected as a member of the Management Committee. (Minutes, 7/1/1929.) A month later, he was elected with Swadling, Shaw, Hill and Sylvester, as the Union’s delegates to the ALP’s Water Transport Group. (Minutes, 4/2/1929.)

In the long-running dispute with the shipowners in their attempts to reduce the few benefits in the Award, a new Log of Claims from the shipowners was, according to Mahony, "even worse than previous employers’ Logs". In rejecting the Log, the meeting adopted a somewhat sarcastic motion from Hagan that

in the opinion of this Branch we cannot see our way clear to accept the terms laid down in the latest log. (Minutes, 15/4/1929.)

At a meeting of the Management Committee, in April, Hagen laid a charge against J.Ramsey of "working systematically against the best interests of the Union", by picking up an unfinancial member, contrary to Union decisions. J. Ramsey had become a foreman at Morrison and Sinclair’s and was charged with sending his brother, W. Ramsey, to pick up men. The brother picked up, among others, the unfinancial Corrigan. In the event, Hagan’s charge was not proceeded with when the Committee decided that, while Corrigan was unfinancial, Ramsey could have made an error by reason of Corrigan’s unfinancial badge being the same colour as the financial one for that Quarter. (Minutes, 22/4/1929.)

With the Timber workers’ strike still continuing, Hagan moved for a further donation of £50 to be made to the men on strike and this was carried. (Minutes, 13/5/1929.) At a later meeting he seconded a motion by E.Hill, to donate a further £50, which was carried. (Minutes, 27/5/1929.)

In June, Hagan, along with E.Murphy and W.Davis, announced their resignations from the Management Committee, and Sylvester from his position as Treasurer. The reason given for this combined action was that "in view of certain decisions arrived at at the last meeting, they had no desire to remain on the Management Committee". The resignations were accepted and the vacancies filled there and then. (Minutes, 10/6/1929.)

It was somewhat uncertain as to what decisions had upset these members, since the only decision which may have been at issue was that moved by Sylvester and Hagan, which was carried

That the domestic rule stating that no man shall present himself for work after 2 p.m. shall be rescinded as far as it refers to Mort’s Dock. (Minutes, 27/5/1929.)

Two days after this decision, the Management Committee decided that it should be considered by "a general meeting" (Minutes of Management Committee, 29/5/1929.) The matter was then considered at a Special Stop Work Meeting, at which the Chairman, Bill Swadling, stated

the actions of certain members in refusing to accept the decision of the last meeting was regrettable and that it would demonstrate to the employers that there was a split in our ranks which should be avoided. (Minutes, 6/6/1929.)

These remarks were followed by the Secretary’s statement that "he had endeavoured to induce the men to leave the paddock but it was not successful". All of this was followed by a heated debate which led to a move to reaffirm the Sylvester/Hagan motion which, when put to a vote was defeated.

The next meeting elected Hagan and Davis as Auditors for the Union’s accounts, each to be paid £4.4.0 for the work.

When Mahony reported on further discussions with the employers, Hagan and Hill proposed that the Union adopt a decision to work the 44 hours in five days, but this was rejected in favour of

That the Delegates negotiate along the lines of 44 hours in five days or 44 hours in six days, according to the custom of the establishment. (Minutes, 5/8/1929.)

In November, a Special Stop Work Meeting elected six delegates, including Hagen, to represent the Union at the ALP’s Water Transport Group Conference. Later the meeting considered Agenda items for the ALP’s Metropolitan Provincial Conference and, among others, adopted Hagen’s motion

That Members of Parliament be asked to pay their own election expenses. (Minutes, 11/11/1929.)

The last meeting for 1929 had a report on the miners strike and adopted a motion from E.Murphy and J.McDonald

That we….protest against the action of the Bavin Government in employing the police to shoot down miners and murdering Norman Brown at Rothbury and we herewith pledge ourselves to both morally and financially support the miners to the utmost.

(Brown was killed when the police opened fire on the striking miners.)

Hagen and J.Richards then proposed that £50 be donated to the miners, but objection was taken to this, on the grounds that the Rules did not permit a vote of more than £3 without notice of motion being given. The President agreed and notice was given for a Special Meeting in the New Year. (Minutes, 18/12/1929.)

Hagen was defeated for the position of Treasurer and delegate to the Eight Hour Committee by E.Dodds, at the election of officers at the beginning of 1930, but was elected as one of the Union’s delegates to the Labor Council.

This meeting also considered the notice of motion for a donation to the striking miners. The motion was moved by E.A.Hill instead of Hagen and was carried by the meeting. (Minutes, 6/1/1930.)

In February, Hagen and Swadling moved to adopt motions from the Victorian Branch for submission to the Australian Trade Union Congress:

1. That Congress considers the time has arrived for One Union to embrace the whole of the workers in the Maritime Industry and hereby instructs the ACTU Executive to take immediately the necessary actions to amalgamate the existing maritime Federations or Unions into a Maritime Transport Workers Industrial Union of Australia.(see Appendix 13(h))

2. That the Federal Government be requested to repeal all the 1928 amendments to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act.

3. That notwithstanding anything contained in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, the Court shall not have jurisdiction to make an Award increasing the Standard Hours of work in any Industry to more than (44) forty-four hours per week, or where the standard hours of work in any industry are less than (44) forty-four per week, increasing the Standard Hours of work in that industry. (Minutes, 3/2/1930.)

Swadling and Hagen then succeeded in their motions concerning issues to come before the ALP Conference

That the delegate be instructed to vote against any of the ten applicants who stood for conscription.

(This concerned ten applicants for readmission to the Party and showed a long memory reaching back to the 1916 and 1917 anti-conscription fights.)

As well, they proposed that the delegate be instructed To vote against anyone implicated in the ballot box scandal. (This concerned skulduggery in pre-selections for candidates for Members of Parliament.)

When the Labor Council requested assistance in financing a paid Organiser for the unemployed, Hagen and Swadling moved to make a contribution, but their motion was defeated and the meeting declined to have anything to do with the payment, possibly because it appeared that other unions had taken a similar attitude. (Minutes, 17/3/1930.) But, at the next meeting, a request from the Labor Council to summon all unemployed members to a gathering at the Trades Hall on 1st May, was supported through a motion from Hill and Hagen

That it be advertised in the Labor Daily along with other unions when they advertise. (Minutes, 31/3/1930.)

Hagen reported to a meeting on his attendance at a meeting of the Transport Group which had dealt with the issue of overseas ships crews doing work which had hitherto been done by the Coal Lumpers. The Group had decided to give the Coal Lumpers Union financial and moral support in a case it had taken to the Industrial Court on the matter and the Union endorsed this approach. (Minutes, 14/4/1930.)

With the Depression beginning to bite, Harry Simon sought to have the Union introduce a "Distress Fund" to assist members who "through sickness, unemployment or any other cause, are in very distressed circumstances", by a levy of 1/-d. per week. Hagen seconded his motion, but it was defeated, the matter being referred to the Management Committee for consideration. (Minutes, 28/4/1930.)

A letter from the ALP’s Socialisation Committee sought financial assistance to defray the costs of printing leaflets and other activities and Hill and Hagen’s motion to donate £2 was carried. (Minutes, 18/8/1930.)

Unemployment continued to be a matter for consideration at meetings and Hagen’s motion to suspend Standing Orders to permit a motion for affiliation with the Unemployed Workers Movement, was carried despite the President ruling the matter required a Notice of Motion. Hagen then moved

That we the members of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union of Australia decided to affiliate with the Unemployed Workers Movement and to stand solidly behind them in all their aims and objects recognising the fact that perfect workingclass unity can only be obtained by the class cooperation of the employed and unemployed workers.

The motion was seconded by W.Murphy and carried by the meeting. (Minutes, 1/9/1930.) Later in the meeting, Hagen handed in a notice of motion declaring

That we the members of the rank and file of the Ship Painters and Dockers Union of Australia declare all Government Relief Work black and undertake to support any member who may be victimised by the Government Labour Bureau or the Benevolent Society.

At the next meeting, Bob Mahony reported that, not only was the President in hospital, but also J.Hagen. The Vice President then ruled Hagen’s notice of motion out of order since he was not present to move it. No objection was taken to this ruling. No information was given on Hagen’s or Weston’s illnesses.

At the same meeting, discussion took place on a request from the Labor Council to support a proposal for its official organ "The Labor Weekly". Hagen moved for the letter to lay on the table, meaning that no action be taken on the matter, but this was defeated by an amendment from Sylvester

That we repudiate the "Labor Weekly" and support the "Workers Weekly" (official organ of the CPA).

Jim Hagen’s serious condition was brought to the attention of the November meeting through a letter from M.Braund and W.Pittendrigh, enclosing 56 tickets

On behalf of James Hagen who is suffering with a paralytic stroke and who is at present in Walker’s Home. He is sadly in need of assistance.

It was decided to purchase the 50 tickets. (Minutes, 10/11/1930.) "Walker’s Home" may have been a reference to the Dame Eadith Walker Home on the banks of the Parramatta River at Concord, which was used mainly for treatment of Returned Soldiers.

A Benefit Fund set up by some of the members for Hagen asked for cooperation from the Union to make the benefit a success and a committee was elected for the purpose, comprising Bill Bingham, J.Shepherd, W.Murphy, E.A.Hill and Jim Shaw.

It would appear that the benefit action being taken on his behalf was due to his being unable to work, but that he was able to attend some Union meetings, for his name appears in the minutes of a meeting at which he seconded a motion by Ted Hill to congratulate the Labor Council for inviting the Pan Pacific Trade Union Secretariat to hold its 1931 conference in Australia. And Hill and Hagen are recorded as seeking to reject a request from the UWM for a donation towards a Xmas tree for the children of the unemployed (this being at the time of the Communist Party’s rejection of the UWM.) (Minutes, 8/12/1930.)

In 1931, Hagen once more sought to control labour being picked up for Mort’s Dock, but it was ruled out of order by the Chairman, a ruling which was not challenged. (Minutes, 5/1/1931.) A month later, he moved that a donation of £2.2.0 be made to the UWM, which resulted in a tied vote and the Chairman giving his casting vote for the motion. (Minutes, 2/2/1931.) At the next meeting, when the subject of a general reduction in wages by the Federal Arbitration Court was raised, and the Secretary reported that the ACTU would hold a special conference on the issue, Hagen and Hill opposed a motion by Shaw

That we instruct our delegates to oppose any move to precipitate a General Strike.

The motion was carried by 109 to 14 votes against. (Minutes, 23/1/1931.)

A notice of motion by Hagen, aimed at giving every member of the Union full rights, regardless of their financial standing, lapsed when it was announced that he was not in attendance at the meeting. (Minutes, 23/3/1931.)

Nothing more was recorded about Hagen until the beginning of 1932, when he was elected to the Management Committee and, at the same meeting, supported a motion by Hill for the Union to hear a speaker from the Friends of the Soviet Union which was carried. (Minutes, 11/1/1932.)

The Management Committee noted on 22nd January, that Hagen was absent due to his being in Little Bay Hospital. Though the reason was not given, Little Bay was generally known as the hospital to which many infectious diseases cases were sent.

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