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.