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The Act was used against workers organising for better conditions from its inception until well after the first United Kingdom Trade Union Act 1871 was implemented, which secured the legal status of trade unions.
Under the Master and Servant Acts enacted in the Australian colonies in the 1840s, employees who left their employment without permission were subject to being hunted down under the Bushrangers Act.
Trade unions in Australia may be organised (i.e., formed) on the basis of craft unionism, general unionism, or industrial unionism.
Almost all unions in Australia are affiliated with the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), many of which have undergone a significant process of amalgamations, especially in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Of those who were a trade union member in relation to their main job, over two thirds (68%) had been members for five years or more.In 1916, the Victorian Eight Hours Act was passed granting the eight-hour day to a wide range of workers in the state.The eight-hour day was not achieved nationally until the 1920s, but that was in the context of a 48-hour week.As the craft union movement broadened, less skilled and rural workers began to organise.Australia was convulsed by a number of great strikes in the 1890s.