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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.




As originally constituted, the federation's objectives were as follows:

In 1951, following the breakaway of a section of militant unionists, the constitution was revised and the scope of the federation's objectives broadened so as to make them more consonant with the ideas and aspirations of the international trades union movement. In one respect, however, there would appear to have been a retreat, since it is now laid down that one of the federation's objectives is “to work for a more equitable share of the national income and ultimately production for social use and not for private profit”. A swing back towards its former militancy became evident at the 1964 annual conference, the first held since the death of F. P. Walsh. On that occasion the secretary urged that “ultimately production for social use and not for private profit” was a more worthy aim for the federation than the New Zealand Labour Party's objective “to promote and protect the freedom of the people and their political, social, and economic and cultural welfare”.

The first officers of the federation were: A. Mc-Lagan (United Mine-workers' Federation), president; R. Eddy (New Zealand Workers' Union), vice-president; F. D. Cornwell (Wellington), secretary-treasurer; and F. P. Walsh (Wellington Seamen's Union) and E. Canham (Wellington Waterside Workers' Union), resident members of the national executive. The federation is financed by a “capitation” levied upon each affiliated union in proportion to its membership. Only unions which are currently financial affiliates may participate in the federation's annual or special conferences.

Although the total membership of the federation is not known, some indication of its strength was given at the 1962 annual conference when the credentials committee reported that the delegates present represented 126 financial affiliations and 231,899 trade unionists. This constitutes no mean force in the New Zealand economy.

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

  • Constitution and Rules of the Federation of Labour (1951)
  • The Rise of Labour, Brown, B. M. (1962)
  • Standard, 22 Apr 1937
  • Evening Post, 2 May 1964.