Ipswich Railway Workshops Employees' Sickness Fund Rule Book

Production date
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Object detail

A small brown booklet printed by Bemi's Printery in Ipswich. It contains rules and regulations relating to the Ipswich Workshops employee sickness benefit fund.
Production date
L141 x W107 x H1mm
Media/Materials description
Ipswich Railway Workshops \ Employees' Sickness Benefit \ Fund
RULES \ 1940
Bemi, Printer, Ipswich
History and use
In October 1940, a large meeting was held at the Ipswich Railway Workshops Rostrum to discuss the establishment of a new employee social insurance scheme to be called the Ipswich Railway Workshops Employees’ Sickness Fund. A number of insurance and benefit schemes were already in operation at the site including the Ipswich Railway Workshops Sick and Burial Fund and the Queensland Railway Employees’ Contingent Fund.

The aim of the new Employees’ Fund was to create a centralised and more equitable method of supporting ill staff. In the past, benefit groups would circulate lists of men who were injured through the shops and ask for donations which resulted in uneven and unfair payouts. The new scheme would be paid for by regular fortnightly payments and if the injured man met the criteria for payouts, he would receive them directly without the need for donations. An employee was required to pay 13 weeks of contributions to then be eligible for benefits from that point onwards.

The organising committee announced that they had estimated that they would require around 1000 men to sign up for the fund to succeed. One of the main goals for the committee was to convince the Railway Department to remove contributions from their members’ fortnightly pay on the fund’s behalf.

Lunch time on pay day at the Ipswich Railway Workshops was a frenzy of activity as representatives from funds, clubs and unions scoured their shops to collect all the dues. The new Sickness Fund hoped to eliminate collecting in this manner by convincing the department to give clerical support to the Fund in the pay office.

During the first half on 1941, 900 men signed up to the new Fund but the Minister for Transport, Mr J Larcombe, announced that removing employee contributions for the scheme would burden an already understaffed (due to the war) IRW pay office. The Sickness Fund committee were bitterly disappointed by the Minister’s decision but had little choice to continue on without support from the department’s pay role clerks. The Fund began operating on 1st July 1941.

Despite this setback, the Fund continued to grow and by October 1942 had over 1100 members who contributed 2 shillings each per pay. Throughout 1942 and 1943 the Fund paid out around £80 to members per month. In 1944, a decision by the Queensland Court of Arbitration had a significant impact on the future of the Fund.

In March 1944, the court announced that the Railway Department would have to pay staff on both wages and salary sick leave entitlements. Prior to this ruling only salaried employees were paid sick leave. The ruling meant that from now on, the vast majority of employees at the Ipswich Railway Workshops were eligible for sick pay. In April, a majority of members voted at a special meeting to abolish the Fund now that the department was paying sick leave. In its three years of operation the Fund paid out £2922 to members and their families. Although short lived, the scheme had achieved what it set out to do by providing IRW workers a sense of financial security.
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