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Congratulations Kay Steel!

Congratulations to Kay Steel (and her supervisor Erik Eklund) - word just came through that all requirements have been met for her PhD.  Just the graduation ceremony to go and she'll be Doctor Kay! Title and summary below...

To the bitter end: the 1977 State Electricity Commission of Victoria maintenance workers' dispute

This thesis describes and analyses the 1977 State Electricity Commission of Victoria maintenance workers’ dispute. The dispute is examined within its complex local, state and federal context, including relevant economic, political and industrial factors. While the dispute over the log of claims was expected to be a minor event, the actions of the SECV over a more emotive issue, that of contract labour, provided the trigger for a strike which was ill-advised in its broader context.

The narrative of the dispute is enhanced by the inclusion of material from interviews of participants bringing subjectivity to an account otherwise derived from documentary sources. These interviews also indicated three themes which come out in the narrative: the control over the dispute by the rank and file, the extensive support for the dispute from the community, and the effect of the Melbourne-LV divide.  The latter operated across the unions and their members, between the local and the state peak councils, and within the SECV.

In order to add to our understanding of lengthy disputes, the events of 1977 are analysed using Kelly’s Mobilisation Theory. This provides a greater focus on social relationships and interactions than traditional methods of industrial relations analysis. In particular, it provides a means of incorporating the local industrial identity when considering those factors which impact on the origin and continuation of disputes.

An analysis of the origins and development of this significant regional industrial dispute adds much to our understanding of regional labour history in the Latrobe Valley, as well as making a contribution to the literature on the causes of lengthy Australian disputes.