At the start of the twentieth century, many workers in Rockhampton laboured more than 56 hours a week, earned low pay and suffered poor conditions. Horses, as assets, were more highly valued by employers than easily replaced employees. Few unions existed in Rockhampton other than those for skilled tradesmen. Several unions for labourers and the semi-skilled had formed in the 1880s, but defeat in the great strikes of the early 1890s, economic Depression and prolonged drought crushed unionism throughout eastern Australia.

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