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George Charles Kerr (1872–1941)

"George Kerr died this morning." When that news of the death of the secretary of the Brewery Employees' Union spread from room to room on Wednesday, it cast a gloom over Perth Trades Hall. Genuine sorrow at the passing of a valued colleague was mingled with a feeling of individual loss. George was so long at the hall and had been actively associated with so many unions that in practically every room he was mourned as a personal friend as much as a co-worker in the Labor Movement.

More than 30 years ago he became secretary of the Brewery Employees' Union and filled that office continuously till his death. But his zeal for the workers' movement impelled him to effort in the way of organisation, the Horse Drivers', Municipal Workers', Metropolitan Timber Yards Workers' and Water Supply Unions owing either their establishment or survival in their early years to his organising skill and personal exertions. For example, his work for the Water Supply Union involved riding a push bike along the whole length of the pipeline between Perth and Kalgoorlie—not once, but many times.

He was secretary of the Tramways' Union in 1917, the most tempestuous year in the history of the movement. At Christmas of that year the big strike of tramway men broke out. The stoppage lasted seven weeks. He negotiated a settlement on the basis of a reference of an application for a representative award to an independent tribunal. The Canning Inquiry resulted, and the retrospective award was secured, carrying backpay which ran into thousands of pounds.

It is said of him that that was the only court judgment on the question of wages with which he was associated, that he was able in the case of every union to reach a consent award by negotiation with the employers.

Mr. Kerr was born in Bathurst, New South Wales, 69 years ago. His first union membership was with the Lorry and Draymen's Union in Sydney, the secretary at that time being "Billy" Hughes.

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'Kerr, George Charles (1872–1941)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 19 May 2024.

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