Point of view: a significant regional industrial dispute from a novel perspective

Kathryn May Steel

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    In 1977 the State Electricity Commission of Victoria (SECV) maintenance employees in the Latrobe Valley withdrew their labour for eleven weeks, plunging the state into chaos. Severe electricity restrictions were imposed, effectively shutting down industry and having a significant impact on public transport, households, and commercial and social activity. Using internal documents relating to the dispute retained by the SECV?s Assistant General Manager (Operations) and now held in PROV as VPRS 9822, this paper discusses the events of 1977 from the employer?s perspective, and specifically that of management, a voice which is generally under-represented in the literature on industrial disputes. Specifically, it compares the information which was provided to the public through press releases and newspaper reports with those documents which informed internal decision-making during the dispute, particularly during the period of power restrictions. While the severity of the restrictions was questioned in the media on a number of occasions, this paper concludes that the rhetoric of the internal documents confirms the reduced electricity generation capacity and finds that the restrictions imposed were sustainable only because of some brief returns to work by the strikers. At the same time it is argued that the power restrictions were a direct result of attitudes which underpinned the management decision-making process and which led to the escalation of a minor dispute into a significant regional dispute.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1 - 13
    Number of pages13
    JournalProvenance: The Journal of Public Record Office Victoria
    Issue number12
    Publication statusPublished - 2013

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