Queensland Railway Dismissals 1879: Ipswich and Rockhampton Railway Workshop
This database provides information on the employees of the Ipswich and Rockhampton Railway Workshops at the time of the rail dispute in May 1879 - prior to the commencement (in 1889) of the regular publication of lists of persons employed in the railway service. Listing 447 entries, it gives the name, position, railway, date of first appointment and date of discharge [if applicable] for each person employed in the Locomotive Departments of the Ipswich and Rockhampton Railway Workshops in Queensland as at 1 May 1879. A total of 140 men from a workforce of 455 were discharged - 109 from 382 at the Ipswich Workshops and 31 from 73 at the Rockhampton Workshops. [Although the list in Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly during the Second Session of 1879 indicates the number of employees on 1st May 1879 at Ipswich was 382 the count of those listed is actually only 328; the other totals are correct] Various allegations were made as to how those to be dismissed were selected - creed, political considerations, member of trade associations - the official view was that extensive reductions were necessary because of economic considerations.

Wide coverage of the dismissals was made in the local newspapers. The extracts below indicate the views of the various parties - 100 out of the 109 dismissed men were known to be supporters of the Liberal candidates, and they were also mostly of one creed. [The Brisbane Courier, Wednesday May 21, 1879]

Mr. Perkins denied that Catholics were more favoured than others in the dismissals from the Ipswich shops [The Brisbane Courier, Wednesday May 21, 1879]

the men were not discharged as recommended by overseers but for political reasons [The Brisbane Courier, Thursday May 22, 1879]

among the number to be discharged are skilled workmen which they [the foremen] cannot do without [The Queensland Times Thursday May 15, 1879]

and the official view ............ the men at Ipswich ... were discharged simply because the Government could not employ them [The Brisbane Courier, Thursday May 22, 1879]

In the Railway Workshops at Ipswich and Rockhampton, extra hands have been employed in manufacturing rolling stock for the railways, but the supply has overtaken the demand ... It has accordingly been found expedient to make large reductions in the number of hands [The Morning Bulletin, Rockhampton Wednesday May 21, 1879]

expenditure under the late Administration had become dangerously large in proportion to the revenue ... the prompt action now being taken, though occasioning ... inconvenience and even distress, may therefore be regarded as a means of saving the colony from a more trying ordeal [The Morning Bulletin, Rockhampton Saturday May 24, 1879]

It does not appear that workmen not belonging to trade associations, or who, for any other reason might have been considered objectionable, have been seriously intimidated or inconvenienced by their fellow workmen. [Report of the Select Committee appointed to inquire into the Working of the Railway Workshops, and on the Best Mode of Maintaining an Adequate Supply of Locomotives and Railway Rolling Stock, 23 Sep 1879]

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