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Waihi Strike

In the North Island town of Waihi gold miners were fighting against the practice of competitive contracting that divided workers on the basis of their strength and age.

Life as a miner was tough. Work conditions were difficult and safety was non-existent.

In 1911 the Waihi miners withdrew from the arbitration system and enlisted the support of the Federation of Labour or 'Red Feds'. The following year they shut the mine down.

The mining company retaliated by bringing in non-union labour and enlisting the support of William Massey's new Reform government.

The company, backed by the new government, decided to send in the police. Soon ten percent of the nation's police force, over 80 policemen, were posted to Waihi.  The presence of the police provoked violence and one striker, Frederick George Evans, became the country's first unionist to die for his cause.

On 12 November 1912 Evans was attacked when 'scabs' and the police made a rush at the union hall. He was chased down an alleyway and was badly beaten. He died later in hospital. Unionists recall the day as 'Black Tuesday' and every year they still remember Evans as their martyr.

In 1912 industrial unrest was spreading and Waihi became the spark for some of the most destructive civil conflict the country has ever seen.