My Union Right or Wrong.
A history of the Ship Painters and Dockers Union 1900-1932
By Issy Wyner
Among the earliest active members of the Union was E.TARLINGTON who, when a number of the Union’s Rules were recommended for alteration, took exception to a provision in Rule 4 which would exclude some members from financial assistance
Mr. Tarlington objected to the latter part of this Rule dealing with drunkenness. Mr. Creighton also objected & stated that it did not matter what caused the sickness the member should be entitled to benefits. Rule 4 was adopted by the meeting. (Minutes, 9/4/1901)
A few months later, apparently due to illness, he was included in a list of unfinancial members prepared by the Management Committee. The Committee referred his case to the general meeting,
for their consideration he being unfinancial at present & cannot be notified of the fact. The amount of the arrears owed by him is 5/3d.
The next meeting decided
That he be allowed the privileges of a sick member. (Minutes, 27/7/1901)
In 1902, he held the positions of President and delegate to the Labor Council. (Minutes, 25/3/1902.)
His illness, though never spelled out in the minutes, must have been of some long-term kind for some years later he asked to be exempted from payment of union dues owing to sickness over a long period. His application also advised that he would have to resign from the Union
through the want of employment he being practically blackballed everywhere.
The Secretary stated that something should be done for the old members such as a Rule being brought into force that would exempt them from contributions when they become too old to compete with the younger members for employment.
Resolved that Mr. Tarlington's case be referred to the Management Committee for the purpose of keeping him financial. (Minutes, 6/2/1905).
With his case still unresolved, Tarlington continued to attend Union meetings and to voice his views. Thus, he gave notice of a motion, which he moved at the next Union meeting, to take legal action against Creighton for breaking Union Rules and traditions by taking a contract for work at Mort’s Dock. His motion lapsed for want of a seconder, but the matter soon became a serious issue for the Union. (Minutes, 20/3/1905.)
Tarlington held to a view that the Union should be something more than an industrial organisation and thus seconded a motion by the socialist-minded Edward Talbot
That a portion of each meeting be devoted to the discussion of Industrial Political & Economic subjects.
Mr.Talbot explained that his idea was for the purpose of educating ourselves and causing the younger members to take an interest in matters for their own & other fellow workers benefit.
Whether the proposal was too forward-looking for the members, or whether they were deterred by the prospect of meetings running to a much later hour, the motion was defeated by 63 votes to 28. (Minutes, 9/12/1907)
In the following year, objection was taken at the half-yearly meeting, to payment being made to an Auditor who was an "honorary member". This was aimed at Tarlington who had been elected as an Auditor although he was no longer a full-time working member by reason of illness and other causes for which he had been classified as exempt from contributions. The meeting, however, decided to adopt the Auditors’ Report and the payment to be made to each Auditor for their work. At the same time, it was decided to elect a committee to prepare a revised set of rules which would provide for such cases as Tarlington’s for holding positions in the Union. (Minutes, 22/6/1908.)
The problem with such cases did not go away. In 1910, the case of another old-timer was debated when B.Ellis was made a member of the Rules revision committee but was found to be unfinancial. Bob Mahony intervened in the debate to explain
Mr. Ellis was one of the principal founders of the Union, he had taken a most determined stand for the rights of his fellow workmen during the most trying times of the Union’s formation. He had a great lot of trouble and sickness lately and had only recently come out of Hospital. He had made terms with the Committee to make himself financial and was carrying out his promise. The custom had been in the past to allow any member of the Union a voice on working conditions…..
The President ruled Mr. Ellis’ seat vacant on the grounds of his being an unfinancial member.
Mr.Tarlington desired to discuss the question of his nomination not being taken by the President. The President stated that he would not take his nomination according to Rule.
When nominations were called to replace Ellis, Tarlington was amongst those who nominated for the position and the President refused to accept his nomination, a decision which was accepted by the meeting without demur. (Minutes, 4/4/1910).
Still persisting with his view that he was entitled to nominate for any position in the Union, notwithstanding his financial status, Tarlington nominated for President at the June half-yearly meeting. The then President, Eastanghaffe,
refused to take the nomination of Mr.E.H.Tarlington under Rules 6 and 30 and also ruled that he had not been a financial member for the past six months.
Mr. Tarlington asked the President whether he was a financial member or not. The President answered yes, but not a financial member for six months.
Moved by Mr.Tarlington and seconded by Mr.J.B.Jenkins that the President’s ruling be dissented from. The motion was put to the meeting and lost by 16 votes to 9……
Moved by Mr. E.H.Tarlington and seconded by Mr. J.B.Jenkins that all nominations be postponed until next meeting night for the purpose of allowing him to prove that he was financial
Mr. Ostler then asked the Secretary whether Tarlington was financial or not. The Secretary stated in his opinion Tarlington was financial as he considered the only test was, did Tarlington owe thirteen weeks contributions……
Mr.Ostler then stated that the President had done something illegal inasmuch as Tarlington was a financial member and therefore he was entitled to stand.
Mr.Scrimshaw considered that Tarlington was unfinancial since 1908.
Mr. Dulstone considered that the matter could be fixed up by Tarlington declaring off the Exempt list…..
The motion was then put to the meeting and lost by 27 votes to 5. (Minutes, 13/6/1910.)
Despite this setback, Tarlington persisted with his view that he was entitled to the full rights of membership. At the half-yearly meeting, a week later, he again attempted to stall the Branch elections in order that he could state a case for himself. Once more, he was defeated. At the half-yearly meeting, a fortnight later, E.Talbot, raised the matter of
one of our members at the previous meeting resigned his position on the Management Committee and stood for…Auditor and was elected. he also nominate for other positions…. It seemed the member in question did the thing purposely to get a monetary position.
Mr. E.H.Tarlington stated he had been a member of the Union since its inception and no member could point a finger of scorn at him….He stood for the position with the object of keeping himself financial on the roll. Out of the 10/- he had received he had paid back 7/- to the Union. He therefore had only received 3/- for his work.
Mr.Welsh stated that he did not consider it fair to try and hound down an old member like Mr.Tarlington. it appeared to him very much like kicking a man when he was down….. (Minutes, 19/6/1911.)
The matter did not proceed any further on that occasion, but an apparent bitterness between Talbot and Tarlington continued to simmer.
In July, Tarlington sought to defer the adoption of the minutes of the previous meeting "until the member that created a disturbance at the last meeting be dealt with". Thus did Tarlington attempt retaliation and Talbot
said he did not consider it fair for a member to bring the matter up now. He had the opportunity last meeting and did not do so. He said he was sorry he lost his temper on that occasion…..motion lapsed. (Minutes, 3/7/1911.)
Towards the end of 1913, when conferences between Mahony and employers produced some "concessions", Talbot moved for acceptance of them and Tarlington moved for the employers’ offer to be rejected and a further conference sought with the employers in order to gain further improvements. The debate wavered to and fro on whether anything more was to be gained or whether strike action should be taken, but when put to a vote, Talbot’s motion of acceptance was carried by 150 votes to 32. (Minutes, 15/12/1913.)
At the same meeting Tarlington tendered his resignation from the Management Committee without any reasons being recorded.