The trade union movement in Rhodesia, 1910-1924
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One of the effects of the first World War was that circumstances became more favourable to artisan organisation, particularly on the railways, where the only permanent trade union in Rhodesia was formed by white employees in 1916. This was by no means the first attempt to form a union, but earlier efforts in various industries had usually proved ineffective and ephemeral. It has been pointed out by Gray that on average, the white working class in Rhodesia was paid substantially more than its equivalent in South Africa or Britain. As Arrighi has indicated, white labour had to be attracted to Rhodesia, and unlike South Africa, the white working class was a consequence of capitalist development and did not precede it, which meant that this class tended to be in a good bargaining position.* This initially undermined the need for formal organisation, which was further discouraged by the small scale of industries in the country; the railways were the only large employers of white labour. The war altered this situation in two important respects, the increased cost of living and loss of manpower. Employers failed to respond favourably to early demands by white workers, and the trade union movement was the result.