The struggle for workers’ rights has a long and significant history in Aotearoa New Zealand. Trade unions and the fight for a fair society are important strands of our national story. Many major historical events have their roots in labour-related issues. These have also been key factors on national politics and the evolution of New Zealand society. Labour history connects New Zealand to the world. Work has been a prime factor in out migration history and local unions (and related groups) have important links overseas.
Much of New Zealand’s labour history, however, remains undocumented and unpublished. The social history of work in New Zealand has been relatively neglected by historians. Without a more accessible labour heritage, we overlook important ways of understanding New Zealand’s past and present, and vital perspectives on where we are heading.
What is the Labour History Project? In 1987 the Trade Union History Project (TUHP) was formed by historians, trade unionists and political activists to help document New Zealand labour history. Initially established with state funding, since 1991 the organisation has relied upon volunteer resources, donations and occasional publishing grants.
In 2008 the TUHP changed its name to the Labour History Project (LHP) to better reflect the range of member interests. The LHP is an energetic and independent organisation. It has over 150 individual and institutional members, and maintains links with affiliated organisations such as the Auckland Labour History Group, trade unions, libraries, museums, academics and counterpart groups overseas. It is the only national organisation dedicated to fostering New Zealand labour history, and cultivating this important part of our collective memory. The Labour History Project has no affiliation with the New Zealand Labour Party or any other political party.
What does the Labour History Project do? The LHP has been active in many areas since 1988, including:
- Convening a series of major seminars and conferences. Recent subjects have included the Spanish Civil War (2007), the 1968 protests (2008), the 1890 maritime strike (2010), and the Waihi miners’ strike (2012).
- Publishing and co-publishing numerous books including Fifty Years of Struggle: the Story of Equal Pay (1998, ed. Melanie Nolan), Culture and the Labour Movement (1991, eds. John Martin and Kerry Taylor), The Big Blue (2004, ed. David Grant) and Kiwi Compañeros – NZ and the Spanish Civil War (2009, ed. Mark Derby).
- Publishing the substantial four-monthly Labour History Project Newsletter.
- Contributing to union publications such as Union Express and the PSA Journal.
- Initiating and supporting exhibitions, documentary films, archive projects, oral histories and researcher training.
- Establishing and running the biennial Rona Bailey Memorial Lecture in honour of a celebrated political and cultural activist. Recent speakers have included unionist Robert Reid and historian Dick Scott.
The LHP also maintains this website, featuring news, articles, historical resources and bibliographical listings.
Interested in becoming a member? Membership is $30 for individual members / $75 for corporates or institutions. If you’d like to join the LHP please click here.
Write to us:
Labour History Project
PO Box 27425
Email the secretary: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comments or queries? email@example.com
The committee for 2014/2015 is:
Jim McAloon (Chair), Claire-Louise McCurdy (secretary), Russell Campbell (treasurer), David Grant, Richard Hill, Cybèle Locke, Peter Clayworth, Grace Millar, Russell Pierce, Bill Rosenberg, Barry Pateman, Jessica Moran, Sue Shone, Marie Russell, James Taylor.