Workers’ wage woes

Expectations of the results of the building of the Hume Dam were high and border anomalies and wages disputes existed even back then.

From a correspondent to the Wodonga & Towong Sentinel in April 1920.

“On the completion of the water conservation and locking schemes the word drought will have no meaning in or to Australia. The hugeness of the Weir now underway on the Murray, just outside the towns, is spoken of with awe. Still it is but a baby to those that are predicted for other parts of the Commonwealth.

The Weir, on completion, will be a boon, not only to down country arid stretches, but to the district itself.

When its waters are producing wealth by reticulation, hundreds of miles distant, its presence will be acknowledged as one of the tourists resorts, pleasure spots and recreation fields of the world, as well as being a piscina surrounded by game haunts and covered with yachts and boats, etc.; and it is questionable whether the local revenue will not surpass the revenue of its surplus waters.

I intended to write a few full articles about the weir, and still hope to one day, but on my arrival I found the works like a snake with a broken back – one half dead and the other part wriggling.

It would seem to be an anomaly that, on works like this, one set of men should be getting 14/3 a day and another lot only 12/-, apparently for no other earthly reason than they work on opposite sides of the Murray River.

To expect such a state of affairs to exist is as ridiculous and dangerous as it would be to coerce the ladies on either bank of the river to do the block – one in a sun bonnet and the other in latest in hats.

However, I am not thoroughly acquainted with the pros and cons of the issue; therefore, suffice it to say that if a properly equipped Arbitration Court or a sanely-composed One Big Union would overcome the tying up of such works, then let us have either or both immediately.”