HISTORY OF THE UNION
BACKGROUND and WELCOME TO MEMBERS- OUR HISTORY
This organisation has a long and proud history of representation and advocacy for members in the industries to which it has industrial coverage. From its inception in 1902 it has worked to further the interests of members and continuously improve their conditions consistent with the time in which they inhabit. A Union like all things is not the parts acting unconnected with each other but is the sum of all its parts working in Unison for the betterment of all workers and for the wider community.
Part A: Our Beginnings
1. A union known as the SANITARY LABOURERS AND SCAVENGERS’ UNION OF
WORKERS PERTH was registered under the Western Australian
Industrial Arbitration Act on the 7th of June 1902.
2. A union known as the SANITARY LABOURERS AND SCAVENGERS’ UNION OF
WORKERS EASTERN GOLDFIELDS was registered under the Western Australian
Industrial Arbitration Act on the 11th of June 1903
3. In 1904 after the Commonwealth of Australia Legislated into existence the
Conciliation And Arbitration Act using the Industrial Relations powers of the
Commonwealth Constitution (Section 51 part xxxv).
4. On the 7th of January 1910 a union was registered under the Western Australian
Industrial Arbitration Act by the name of THE FREMANTLE AND DISTRICTS
MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES’ UNION OF WORKERS.
5. On the 8th of October 1910 a union was registered as THE METROPOLITAN
MUNICIPAL COUNCILS EMPLOYEES UNION OF WORKERS, this was the
prime forerunner of the union as it is today.
6. On the 27th of July 1913 the Metropolitan Union moved to alter its rules to
absorb the Fremantle Union. At that time, the forerunner of the Transport Workers
Union (T.W.U.), the METROPOLITAN HORSE DRIVERS UNION lodged
and objection with the then Western Australian Industrial Arbitration Commission
which was rejected.
The union amalgamation took effect from the 13th of August 1914. The Eastern
Goldfields Union continued as a separate entity.
7. The reasons for the original separate emergence of unions in the industry was due
primarily to the manner in which the Western Australian economy developed.
8. In the late 19th century and early twentieth century Kalgoorlie and surrounding
regions were a primary driver in the Western Colonial economy due to the discovery
of gold which brought in a rapid influx of workers from the Eastern Seaboard, Asia
9. This led to significant infrastructure development led by C.Y. O’Connor including
the building of the Perth to Kalgoorlie Water Pipeline and the establishment of the
Fremantle Port. Thus, the labour unions were able to form and establish strong
local LABOUR COUNCILS which sadly are now defunct and have been
absorbed into what is now known as “Unions WA”.
10. On the 22nd of April 1915 the union changed its name to the COASTAL MUNICIPAL
AND ROAD BOARDS EMPLOYEES’ UNION OF WORKERS.
11. On the 15th of August 1927 the union changed its name to the MUNICIPAL, ROAD
BOARDS, PARKS, AND RACECOURSE UNION OF WORKERS.
12. On the 13th of January 1928 the union constitution was significantly expanded to
include any workers employed directly by Municipal Council, City Councils, and
Health Boards, Road Boards, Governing Boards of any Parks, Reserves or Racecourses
but excluding Staff Officers and Clerical workers of any of the above mentioned
This established a clear separation from the Clerical and Administrative staff of
all of the above bodies.
Not surprisingly in the 1930s the Local Governing Bodies Officers Association
(now known as the Australian Services Union or A.S.U.) formed
to represent clerical and administrative workers in local government in Western
13. Due to objections from another forerunner of the TWU known as the Amalgamated
Road Transport Union of Workers, employees not directly employed by the
various employer bodies mentioned in 12. above, were entitled to continue membership
through rules exclusions.
Part B: Consolidation and growth
14. A fact not widely known today was that in the period up until 1981 union membership
was compulsory, though clauses written into awards negotiated by the
unions. Therefore, the rights to coverage of workers through union rules was critical to
all union in terms of their growth.
15. During the 1940s the union was very active in developing significant industrial award
coverage for its members which led to the formation of award protecting hours of work,
leave entitlements, public holidays, establishing allowance for skills, disabilities of work
and reimbursement of work costs, overtime penalties for unsocial hours and rights
of union members.
16. The awards created operating distinctly in the following area
REST OF STATE
In addition, awards were created for all the Racing and Trotting Clubs known as the
Sporting Ground Western Australia Award.
17. In 1953 the union’s rules were amended in the constitutional coverage area to include
Cemetery Boards. Not surprisingly, an award was also created in that year to cover
18. Throughout this period the Eastern Goldfields Union remained independent of the
the State union.
19. Although not identified during the period after World War Two the name that is
the name established and registered as the WESTERN AUSTRALIAN
MUNICIPAL ROAD BOARDS, PARKS, AND RACECOURSE EMPLOYEES
UNION OF WORKERS, PERTH.
20. In 1964 the Western Australian Trades and Labour Council (now known as Unions
W.A.) was formed to help promote the interests of all W.A. union affiliated with it. This
Organisation became and affiliate.
21. In the late 1960s the union negotiated further awards covering the KINGS PARK and,
ROTTNEST ISLAND BOARDS, ROYAL AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY OF WA,
THE UNIVERSITY OF WA and the ZOOLOGICAL GARDENS BOARD OF WA and
later on, what are now known as Curtin University and Murdoch University were also
22. On the 30th of July 1970 the Eastern Goldfields Union was finally absorbed into the
the State Union.
23. In 1974 as a result of agitation by the Unions, annual leave entitlements were extended
from 3 weeks per annum to 4 weeks per annum and a leave loading of 17.5% was
introduced into awards.
24. In 1975 a Trade Union Training Authority was established to create training
facility for union officials and job delegates.
25. In 1976 the Union was successful in establishing a new allowance for the
various disabilities suffered by Council workers working on the roads and in rubbish
collection and in parks areas in part known as the INDUSTRY ALLOWANCE.
This allowance is still in the award today and was expanded over time to cover most
area of work except employees working in and around council depots.
26. In the late 1970s the Union decided to seek federal registration through the
formation of the FEDERATED MUNICIPAL AND SHIRE COUNCILS EMPLOYEES
UNION OF AUSTRALIA. A Western Australian Division was created out of the
the same membership covered by the Western Australian Municipal Road Boards,
Parks and Racecourse Employees Union, Perth. The union at this time was commonly
known as the MEU or Municipal Employees Union.
27. In 1977 the WA State Government amended the Local Government Act 1961 to create a
set of regulations setting out Long Service Leave Entitlements for all workers in
Local Government in W.A. This introduced a common standard entitlement across all
WA councils of the right to 13 weeks paid leave upon completion of 10 years of service
by an employee with their employer. They also secured the right to a pro-rated
entitlement after completion of 7 years of service. They also acquired the right in
particular circumstances to portability of long service if moving from one Council to
28. In late 1978 the Federal Union served an Australia wide log of claims for the creation
of federal awards to cover membership.
During the dispute over coverage the union lost coverage of the WA Universities
and the Zoological Gardens to the Miscellaneous Workers Union (now known as
the United workers Union).
29. In 1980 the Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission created a set of
allowances for remote and rural workers known as Location Allowances using
a formula based on Climate, Isolation and Cost of Living. These allowances were
quickly incorporated into the Union’s awards and still exist today.
30. In 1982 the Federal Union won its battle to establish Federal Awards in Local
Government in WA and also in the Cemeteries Industry. The first award created
were the MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) AWARD 1982
and the CEMTERY BOARDS- WESTERN AUSTRALIA AWARD 1982.
31. In 1983 the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission granted claims
initiated by the union for a reduction of ordinary working hours from 40 to 38 per
week despite strong resistance from employers Australia wide.
This significantly was on top of the general claims each year for variations to award pay
rates and allowances dealt with by the peak union body, the Australian Council of
Trade Unions (ACTU) by application of behalf of all unions to the Commonwealth,
Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. This case resulted in wage
Movement indexed to inflation.
32. The flow on of the 38-hour week was to be done industry by industry, award by award.
The Commission also required that there be measurable off sets to the reduction in
hours and the agreements to change awards would include these off sets as memoranda
outlining agreements made between employers and unions and their members by
In Local Government in WA the main off sets identified were the abolition of:
WASH UP TIME
RETURN TO THE WORKS DEPOT FOR MORNING SMOKO AND LUNCH
33. Despite these generous concessions the Perth City Council went after more and
threatened other conditions in exchange for the 38-hour week. This resulted in
a SIX WEEK STRIKE IN WHICH ALL 600 CITY OF PERTH WORKERS
WERE SACKED BY THE COUNCIL. DURING THIS TIME, THE UNION
MAINTAINED A PICKET ON ALL PERTH CITY COUNCIL DEPOTS,
UNIONISTS WERE ARRESTED, THREATENED AND BULLIED.
THE UNION SET UP AND MAINTAINED A CONTINUOUS KITCHEN AT ITS
THEN PREMISES IN CHARLES STREET, NORTH PERTH IN SUPPORT OF
THE STRIKING WORKERS.
Eventually the City of members won the dispute and gained their 38-hour week, and
also secured for the first time the rights to rostered days off (something that is now
taken for granted).
The saddest aspects of the Perth dispute were the crossing of picket lines by Clerical
and Administrative Staff, the spying on workers and the encouragement to non
union workers to take union workers jobs by the Council. Ironically, those same
Clerical and Administrative workers gained the flow on benefits achieved by the City
of Perth Workers namely the 38-hour week and rostered days off.
The union members at Perth City never got back the 6 weeks wages, but they have left
a lasting legacy in the industry that all workers in Local Government in Western
Australia should be eternally grateful for.
34. In 1984 the Federal Union established an award known as the Sporting Grounds
(Western Australia) Award 1984.
35. In 1985 the Federal Union established, and award known as the Kings Park Board and
Rottnest Island Board Award 1985.
36. In 1987 the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission introduced enterprise
bargaining in a primitive form that set out the ability for unions to gain for workers
4% increases above standard National Wage Case Increases in return for negotiating
memorandums of agreement with employers for further workplace efficiencies.
37. In 1988 the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904 was replaced by the
Australian Industrial Relations Act 1988 and the Commission’s name was changed
to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.
The unions lodged claims in that year for compulsory employer contributions
to Superannuation of 3%. These were established in all of this union’s awards by 1992.
Initially this union and it members resisted the claim arguing that the 3% would have
be better used as a general wage increase instead of going into the hand of outsiders.
38. In 1991 the Australian Industrial Relations Commission handed down wage fixing
principles embedding changes to awards to reduce classifications in awards and
consolidating many skills and work-related allowances into the base award rates.
This process took 3 years to complete in the period 1992- 1995.
39. This union argued with the Industry until November 1992 when at a stop work
meeting at the PERTH CONCERT HALL 1200 members voted to accept a new
award structure that is still in place in various forms today.
40. In 1992-1993 the Keating Labor Government further amended the Australian Industrial
Relations Act to facilitate the amalgamation of unions. The then secretary of the ACTU
Bill Kelty addressed delegates of the Federated Municipal Shire Council Employees
Union at the Albury Wodonga Facility of the Australian Trade Union Training at a
Specially convened conference of the Union.
The main purpose of the conference was to discuss a proposal to amalgamate the Union
with the Municipal Officers association, the Federated Clerks Union, the Australian
Tax Officers Association, The Transport Officers Association, and the Social Welfare
The Western Australian Division its delegates who attended the conference vigorously
opposed the proposal.
41. In 1992 a separate award was successfully established for the W.A. Turf Club
This award was known as the Western Australian Turf Club Award 1992.
Further, in 1992 with the legislated break up of Perth City Council by the then
State Government, a new award called the Municipal Employees City of Perth Award
1992 was created. This award was subsequently extended to the Towns of Cambridge,
Vincent and Victoria Park (formerly wards council wards of the old City of Perth).
42. On the 1st of July 1993 after an Australia wide ballot of members of the
the Federated Municipal and Shire Councils Employees Union of Australia,
Municipal Officers association, the Federated Clerks Union, the Australian
Tax Officers Association, The Transport Officers Association, and the Social Welfare
Workers Union which resulted in a YES vote a new union was formed on
The 1st of July 1993 which was known and is still known as the Australian,
Municipal, Administrative, Clerical and Services Union (AMACSU now more
Commonly known as the ASU)
43. This union became federally a branch of that union known as the LOCAL
GOVERNMENT, COMMUNITY SERVICES, PUBLIC AUTHORITIES AND
RACING (MEU) WA BRANCH.
As part of that process the branch secured autonomy to run its financial and industrial
relation affairs, secured assets and the State Union was not included in the
44. In 1996 the Howard government replaced the Industrial Relations Act 1988 with the
Workplace Relations Act 1996 significantly reducing union rights, abolishing
the Trade Union Training Authority and providing for the use of individual
45. On the 31st of December 1999 this union and it members lodged an application to
break away from the ASU and create a new federally registered union.
46. During 1990s the union’s awards underwent further changes to include family leave,
parental leave, annual leave, and sick leave entitlements. For the first time,
portability of sick leave was introduced for LRCEU member in the Local
Government sector Additionally, the union secured in the Local Government
Industry the right to an additional week’s annual leave for employees employed
by councils that were above the 26th parallel.
47. Between 1999 and 2002 the awards were further consolidated and amended by review
of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.
This resulted in a set of awards maintained by the union known as follows:
MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) AWARD 1999
MUNCIPAL EMPLOYEES CITY OF PERTH AWARD 2000
MUNCIPAL EMPLOYEES (SPORTING GROUNDS – WESTERN AUSTRALIA)
MUNICIPAL EMPLPOYEES (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) TURF CLUB
BOTANIC GARDENS AUTHORITY AWARD 2003
MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES ROTTNEST ISLAND AUTHORITY AWARD 2002
CEMETERY BOARDS WESTERN AUSTRALIA AWARD 2003
LOCAL GOVERNMENT OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES COCOS (KEELING)
ISLANDS AWARD 2002
48. On the 19th of November 2002 the union after winning a ballot to disamalgamate
was registered as the WESTERN AUSTRALIAN MUNICIPAL ROAD BOARDS,
HEALTH BOARDS, PARKS, CEMETERIES AND RACECOURSE, PUBLIC
AUTHORITIES WATER BOARDS UNION.
49. In 2005 the Howard government introduced further legislation significantly changing
Industrial relations laws aimed at consolidating employer power
50. On the 1st of July 2009 the Fair Work Act 2009 came into force abolishing and
replacing significant elements of the 2005 legislation. One of the significant changes
was the formation of Industry Awards which are National in character and
have replaced all the federal awards from 1 January 2010.
The Fair Work Act 2009 and consequential legislation and regulations have also
enshrined in National Employment Laws, (9) guaranteed standards covering:
Maximum ordinary hours of work (38)
Flexibility of Hours (when an employee can work)
Community Service Leave
Notice of termination and redundancy
Fair Work Information statement
In addition, the new legislation has completely phased out statutory individual
These laws have also significantly strengthened the unfair dismissal laws and have
expanded the basis on which the employees can claim unfair dismissal.
51. In 2013 as a consequence of Union agitation the Fair Work jurisdiction was expanded
to deal with Anti-Bullying and Harassment applications by individual workers.
52. In the period 2013 -2014 the entire Trade Union movement was put under the spotlight
arising from the decision of the Abbott Federal Government to create and implement
a Royal Commission into the conduct a few of the large unions that emerged from
the Kelty reforms of 1992-1993.
53. The commission made a number of significant recommendations including
creating a separate regulatory body to manage the registrations and ongoing oversight
of all registered trade unions operating in the Federal system. The upshot of this has
been to force unions to function and operate like mini private corporations in a similar
vein to corporations operating under Corporate registration with the Australian
Security and Investments Commission, despite union not being created and
operated for that purpose under their rules. Compliance and governance issues now
take up critical time and resources for all union regardless of their size and internal
54. In 2018 the State Union (the Western Australian Municipal, Road Boards, Parks and
Racecourse Employees’ Union of Workers, Perth) sold its property at 112 Charles
Street. WEST PERTH and along with Federal union bought and relocated to
Business premises on Scarborough Beach Road, in OSBORNE PARK.
The State Union was also able to buy a holiday premises at Ledge Point to go
with the holiday premises that the Federal Union has had at Denmark since 1992.
These low- cost accommodations have proved extremely popular with members.
55. In recent years the pace and energy of enterprise bargaining has slowed remarkably.
This has been further accentuated by the impact of the COVID- 19 pandemic in
2020-to early 2022.
56. With the election of the Albanese Federal government we are now looking at
potential significant changes in how bargaining for wages and conditions of
employment will be conducted now and in the near future
57. During this period the McGowan Western Australian State Government legislated
for the return on the Local Government Industry in Western Australia to the
WA State Industrial Relations system. This became reality April 2022.
58. The State Union in anticipation of these change has already successfully
created a State award to cover and protect minima for members. It has also
recently changed it name to the LOCAL GOVERNMENT, RACING AND
CEMETERIES UNION(WA) IN February 2022.
Part C Now and the Future
As the sages say, “the past is a foreign country”. The present and the future for the
State and Federal Unions are a challenge to the membership to find a place for
the Union, in a dislocated and frenetic modern world dominated by “instant opinions
and argument on anything and everything”.
The impact of technology and modern media on all of society along with the
insanity of “economic liberalism” and the re-emergence of the hard right as
potent force in modern western societies means that union like other
collective entities like churches and charities face existential questions daily.
An idea which had in its genesis English law created in the 1830s to stop workers
from collectively working to protect their interests against those of Capital, has
survived now for 200 years. This union in one form or another has been
operating for 120 years. Given the world we live we are in some ways
and anachronism in a modern world that places individual interests first, second and
last over the interests of community and society.
We all need to reflect and turn back and look and nature from which
we so easily separate ourselves for guidance to a better future for all.
The light on the hill that Ben Chifley, Australian Prime Minister from 1945-1949
so eloquently envisaged still burn bright for the principles, of freedom, justice, fairness
and the rights of workers to protect and provide for their families. This Union still
remains committed to those principles
Yours in Solidarity
Secretary on behalf of Committee of Management