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Worth Fighting For

Worth Fighting For

The memoirs of Ray Gietzelt, General Secretary of the Federated Miscellaneous Workers Union of Australia: 1955-1984

By Ray Gietzelt


Ray Gietzelt was a key figure in trade union and labor politics in the second half of the 20th century and his memoirs are an essential and entertaining part of Australia’s history.

A war veteran who had trained as a chemist, he joined both his father’s company and the Federated Miscellaneous Workers Union when he was demobbed in 1946.

He quickly became involved in the fight to rid the union of autocratic control. Bitterly contested elections saw him win control of first the NSW and then the Federal branches of the union.

He proved one of the most successful union secretaries. A militant policy of membership control of collective bargaining, a program of amalgamation with smaller unions, and an intolerance of corruption, saw the union grow from 22,000 members in 1955 to 122,000 members on his retirement in 1984.

Lionel Murphy, Bob Hawke and Neville Wran were among Gietzelt’s closest friends and allies. Gietzelt was able to deliver them crucial support at key times, and they in turn provided support and advice in his battles to maintain control of the union, including the fight to repel the “coup” attempted by Santamaria’s National Civil Council in the 1970s.


Foreword by the Hon RJL Hawke, AC

Early days
Early union days
Building a modern union
Reshaping the ALP – intervention 
The union and the ACTU 
A target for rightwing takeover
Uranium and the Northern Territory 
The automotive industry
The Lionel Murphy Foundation



Ray Gietzelt’s memoirs tell the story, with clarity and simplicity, of the evolution of the left-leaning Federated Miscellaneous Workers Union … from a small, amateurish and undemocratic outfit of the early 1950s to a large, prospering and technically competent union of more than 122,000 members at the time of Gietzelt’s retirement.
Although inevitably to some degree subjective, the publication of personal accounts, anecdotes and pen portraits of friends and foes can sometimes provide more readable and interesting accounts than the more conventional academic trade union history. …
Of course, the book accords Ray Gietzelt, his leadership group, and rank-and-file supporters much of the credit for this transformation. But many disinterested observers would agree with this assessment. There can be little doubt that, particularly in the area of blue collar industrial relations, the FMWU led the way in the employment of skilled research staff and negotiators, a comprehensive system of involved job delegates, up-to-date federal and state awards and membership services. …
In an understated and factual manner, this book demonstrates [Gietzelt’s] impressive and positive contribution to Australia’s industrial relations and public affairs.

Jeff Shaw, Journal of Industrial Relations, Vol 47(2), 2005

We learn a great deal about his leadership [of the FMWU] as Gietzelt recounts the effort to build a numerically and financially strong union. … His incumbency did not go unchallenged. Chapter seven presents a most intriguing account of the struggle against a right-wing inspired take-over of the NSW branch of the FMWU in the 1970s. Gietzelt’s account is replete with tales of ASIO spies, stakeouts by private investigators, a misplaced bomb and Machiavellian and clandestine plots …
Ray Gietzelt had a long-term association with Lionel Murphy, Neville Wran and Bob Hawke … [His] account of these relationships, supported by Murphy, Wran and Hawke themselves, puts him in the realm of a ‘kingmaker’, having played an influential role in their rise to power. …
Overall, this book is a valuable and interesting account of the leadership of one of Australia’s foremost trade unions … which also provides insights into the broader political and economic developments in the Australian labour movement.

Labour History No 90, May 2006

… an enjoyable and informative read. Gietzelt’s contribution to trade unionism and the many influential contacts and friends he made along his journey are impressive. …
Worth Fighting For will appeal to readers from many different disciplines and gives a good overview of the internal and external politics of a trade union and the need to continuously change and adapt in order to respond to the ever-changing political and industrial climate.

Jeanette Smith, SA Industrial Relations Society Newsletter, December 2005


Published 23 November 2004
Publisher The Federation Press
ISBN 9781862875340
Australian RRP $29.95
International Price $25.00
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ISBN 9781862875333
Australian RRP $49.95
Direct Price $45.00
International Price $45.00
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Industrial Relations / EEO

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