Trade union bannerIn 1890 New Zealand’s watersiders’, miners’ and seamen’s unions were defeated in the Maritime Strike, but a Liberal government was elected with strong working-class support. In 1894 the Minister of Labour, William Pember Reeves, introduced the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act. This established a system of compulsory arbitration between employers and unions which chose to register under the Act.The arbitration systemThe unions, too weak to strike after the defeat of 1890, were happy to accept compulsory arbitration.
Fred Evans' violent death during the 1912 Waihi miners' strike made this otherwise obscure figure into a martyr of the New Zealand labour movement. He remains one of only two people to be killed during an industrial dispute in this country's history.
Evans was born on 11 February 1881 in the Australian mining town of Ballarat, Victoria. He married in 1906 and three years later came to New Zealand with his wife and two small children. By 1912 he was working as a stationary-engine driver at the Waihi goldmine.
On 'Black Tuesday', 12 November 1912, in the midst of a bitter six-month strike by miners in the small New Zealand goldmining town of Waihi, striker Fred Evans was killed - one of only two fatalities in an industrial dispute in New Zealand's history.