Fruit Pickers Refuse to Work With Prisoners

28 February 1945 The Sydney Morning Herald

Members of the Australian Workers' Union, working in Batlow have refused to work with prisoners of war.

They will not handle at the packing-sheds or at the dehydrator, fruit which has been handled by prisoners of war.

This decision will operate from 7.30 a.m. to-day.

The New South Wales secretary ol the A.W.U., Mr. R. W. Wilson, said last night that the Batlow men's decision fulfilled a resolution of the union's convention in Adelaide recently.

The convention decided that members would be instructed not to work in any industry where prisoners of war were employed, unless employers were paying the equivalent of the award wage.

The union appreciated that employers were not allowed to pay more than 1 a week to prisoners under international law, Mr. Wilson added. 

It considered, however, that the difference between 1 a week and the award rate should be paid into a fund for the Red Cross or for assistance to Australian prisoners of war on their return to Australia.

"Widespread stoppages will occur unless this suggestion is implemented by the Federal Government," Mr. Wilson said.  

"A matter of principle is also involved; it may be that one of the prisoners being employed in this country could have fired the shot that killed the father or brother of an A.W.U. man who is now asked, to work with him.

It must be remembered that the A.W.U. has more members fighting at the front than any organisation in Australia."

Later last night. Mr. Wilson said that since members had decided not to work with prisoners of war, employers at Batlow had asked the Federal Government to remove prisoners from the industry.

It is understood that the general secretary of the A.W.U..

Mr. P. Dougherty, and Mr. Wilson will discuss the position early to-day and that, if necessary, will seek adjustments by a direct, approach to the Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin.