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With the PWD and Water Board increasingly opting for day labour on their expanding construction schedules, the RSMU suffered heavy membership losses at a time it could otherwise have grown rapidly.
The RSMU had lost exclusive control over sewer construction, particularly for Water Board activity.
In the face of RSMU militancy, the Water Board incrementally took over many contractors' jobs.
The RSMU's first award, in late 1910, formalised the remarkable gains its members had won through industrial action; gains they had also spread to workers doing similar work but under different awards.
The award reflected the RSMU's strong stand on OHS and embedded many of the union's own OHS rules.
RSMU members pressed on, taking advantage of continuing labour shortages.
Heydon kept it away from the Water Board but the navvies' union competed with the ULPS and RSMU for those on contractors' and PWD jobs.
However, while ULPS officials had become increasingly distant from their fractured membership, it seems that ULPS members among PWD rockchoppers and sewer miners tried to maintain approaches developed within the RSMU. In 1912, for example, 200 of them working on the SWSOOS had struck for five days for higher pay.
(43) Yet, for now, the organising contours for Sydney water and sewerage rockchoppers and sewer miners remained as at 1911: the Water Board union covered those working for the Board; ULPS those working for the PWD; and RSMU those working for contractors.
The more embedded the arbitration system became, the more difficult it was for them to maintain organisational fluidity and compactness through the RSMU. What role had employer strategy and behaviour played in shaping all this?
During 1908, the Board therefore engaged the RSMU in discussions and even in multi-employer collective bargaining alongside other public sector authorities and the PWCA.
RSMU militancy drove up the price of contract tenders, reduced contractors' incentive to tender and made existing contracts unviable--encouraging some contractors to walk away prior to completion.
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