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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.




The Federation of Labour affords a means of consultation and collaboration among the various trade unions of New Zealand. It is the lineal descendant of the Trades Union Councils, the Alliance of Labour, and other workers' organisations which flourished in the earlier years of the century. In 1936, following the accession to power of the Labour Party, it was felt that the different sections of the trades union movement should be united to pursue Labour's common aims. Accordingly, from 14 to 19 April 1937, the delegates from 212 industrial organisations, representing 170,800 trades unionists, assembled in Wellington for the Industrial Unity Conference. Although the conference was called at the request of the Labour Government, it was convened by a small committee of union officials: F. D. Cornwell (Trades and Labour Councils' Federation); Arthur Cook (New Zealand Workers' Union); and F. P. Walsh (Wellington Seamen's Union). In spite of the apparently broad basis of representation, the largest delegations came from two national trades unions organisations – the Trades and Labour Councils' Federation and the Alliance of Labour – while three important unions, the New Zealand Workers' Union, the New Zealand Waterside Workers' Union, and the Union of Railwaymen, were also well represented. After being formally opened by the Acting Prime Minister, Peter Fraser, the conference drafted the constitution of the New Zealand Federation of Labour. In its general outline this followed the form of organisation favoured by New Zealand political groups since Seddon'sLiberal Party. Plenary power is vested in the annual conference to which all affiliated organisations have the right to send delegates. This body, besides deciding important policy matters, elects the national council of the federation and its national executive.


Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.

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