South Australia - Industrial Relations
For a history of banking and bank unionism in South Australia see
G.H. & H.R. Manning, Worth Fighting For
Also see Banking and Finance.
An editorial on bank clerks is in the Observer,
18 May 1878, page 11b.
A satirical poem on them is in the Observer,
31 May 1879, page 19d.
Bank clerks and their poor living standards are the subject of diverse comment in the Register - see
22, 24 and 25 August 1882, pages 1c (supp.), 7a and 6c,
2, 7, 11, 13 and 15 September 1882, pages 1e-f (supp.), 2e (supp.), 6e, 6f and 7a:
Many of [the banks'] junior clerks do not receive the pay of common labourers... There were clerks in banks who could hardly put boots on their feet, and it was the duty of shareholders to see that they were fairly and reasonably remunerated for their services... no wonder that banks' funds are often stolen and young men ruined...
(See Register, 17 May 1889, page 5c for comment on salaries.)
"Our Future - By a Bank Clerk" is in the Register, 9 November 1882, page 6b.
Further comment on the sad lot of bank clerks is made in the Register of 30 December 1882 (supp.), page 1d:
I must say after an experience of 15 years banking in the colonies, including the virgin Adelaide, that the loafing and drinking about hotels is a great deal too much indulged in by... bank clerks. Why, I cannot say, unless it is that the race of bankers now predominating do not come from such good origin as in days gone by... Men of education and manners and good social standing have to quit the banks and seek their fortunes in other fields on account of the introduction of what one might call "Chinese cheap labour"... [They] are the worst paid section of the community, their salaries bearing no comparison with those paid to mechanics and shopmen, yet they are supposed to keep up appearances. God help them I say...
"Our Future - By a Bank Clerk" is an entertaining dissertation on the plight of bank clerks and appears in the Register,
9 November 1882, page 6b; also see
13 February 1883 (supp.), page 2a,
28 February 1883, page 6c,
3 and 5 March 1883, pages 6g and 6c:
I was very sorry to notice the sad case of embezzling - it has been clearly shown that the young man had such a wretchedly small salary that he was almost driven into taking the step that he did...
Further comment is made in the Register, 8 June 1883, page 7d:
It was known that the banks were making larger profits than usual... I write in the interests of many underpaid clerks who are at their wits' end to know how to make ends meet.
An opinion of bank clerks is proffered in the Observer, 20 October 1883, page 25d:
[There] are bank clerks coming... Note their every step, their regular gait, and the enjoyment with which they puff their cloud. He is a gregarious animal, the bank clerk, carnivorous, bibulous and garrulous, generally found in flocks of two or three at the saloons...
"Honesty - Worth How Much?" is in the Register,
25 May 1886, page 4h,
"Bank Clerks, Their Salaries and Honesty" on
28 May 1886, page 7h.
"Hours of Labour" is in the Register, 7 March 1888 at page 6h:
There is a leading bank which seeks to do its work with one-third less than the proper number of clerks, hence those at present in the employ are forced to go back every night and work to 10 and 11 on pain of dismissal. Now this is nothing but extortion and robbery.
(Also see Register, 15 March 1888, page 7c.)
The plight of this profession was again to the fore in 1889 - see Register,
26 February, page 7f,
1, 2, 9, 11 and 16 March, pages 7a, 6c-7g, 6g, 7e and 7a:
This learned Judge [said] that he would sooner put his son to break stones on the road than make of him a bank clerk.
Can't the persons who pour forth their feeble wail see that their proteges can make a stand and extort from their masters what they want, as the tradesmen have done with their employees through their unions.
Following a defalcation at the National Bank in Hindmarsh a letter to the Editor of the Register on 22 October 1889 at page 7g implies that a levy would be made on his fellow clerks to make good the deficit:
Every clerk on entering the Bank had to find security for not less than 1,000 pounds... the unfortunate youth who only got a salary of 60 pounds a year, had out of it to pay 7 pounds 10 shillings a year... There are many things in the internal economy of our bank establishments that require looking into, with a view to reformation.
(Also see Register, 29 October 1889, page 6b.)
Unfortunately, the class from which bank clerks are mostly taken are so much less independent than working men that they are afraid to adopt the remedy which would at once be put in force by the latter... Nothing would please me better than to see a general strike in the National Bank...
(Register, 9 December 1889, page 6h.)
It is really astounding to observe the philosophical manner in which the clerks tolerate these impudent taxes... The aim of the directors is plainly to shovel the profits into the pockets of the shareholders without paying the smallest heed to the pecuniary advancement of bank clerks...
11 December 1889, page 7c; also see
13 December 1889, page 7b.)
The evils complained of have been growing for years and every succeeding year adds to their intensity. Competition, often reckless and uncalled for has reduced returns, but rates of profit... must be maintained, so the pruning-knife is employed... to the salaries of clerks as the easiest way of making up the deficiency...
(Register, 16 December 1889, page 7e.)
Further correspondence followed, including details of the iniquitous "fidelity levy" - see Register, 17 (2 letters), 18, 20, 23 and 28 December 1889, pages 7g, 6g, 3h, 7f and 7c:
[The clerks] know very well that so long as the Manager and upper clerks remain steadfast a strike would be hopeless and to their own injury, as there are hosts of illiterate youths of the three R education standards to take their places... Is it possible that we have here a parallel to the sweating system?...
Another complaint on bankers' working conditions is in the Register, 23 July 1892 (supp.), page 2c:
Bank clerks, many of them boys, are required in certain cases to work up to 9 and 10 o'clock at night... without any extra remuneration... An order was posted up in a bank... requiring every clerk to be at his desk on a certain Sunday at 9.30 am... With no Trades Union to protect them what can they do but submit...
Information on clerks' salaries is in the Register,
18 May 1900, page 7g and
a proposal to form a clerks' union in Great Britain on
29 March 1902, page 8e.
Mr A.R. Addison reflects upon persecution while employed by the National Bank in the Register,
24 November 1904, page 4f.
"Clerks and Unionism" is in The Herald,
5 December 1908, page 9b.
Some formative moves in respect of "Bank Clerks and Unionism" are reported in the Advertiser,
19 October 1909, page 6e.
"Bank Clerks - Marriage Restricted" is in the Register,
18 October 1913, page 15b,
"Into the Mire - Bank Clerk's Lapse" on
7 April 1914, page 9d.
A former bank manager gives his opinion of females entering the industry in the Register, 9 September 1916, page 7d:
The employment of ladies as bank officers is objectionable... I cast no aspersion upon the lady clerk, but would rather suggest that she should feel the mission for which she was ordained, and marry the man whose place she is now usurping.
A photograph of the committee of the SA Bank Officials' Association is in the Chronicle,
19 May 1928, page 42.