Commercial Printing Case [1936]

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Last updated

10 January 2017

The Printing and Allied Trades Employers Federation of Australia and Others v. The Printing Industry Employees Union of Australia and Others

(1936) 36 CAR 738, Dethridge CJ, 18 June 1936


In this decision, the Arbitration Court expressed the view that one week's paid annual leave should be introduced into industries with reasonable prospects and which are not in difficulties. Such leave is a boon for employees, and the cost increase to employers would be compensated by the increased vigour and zeal of employees in their work.

This case concerned a dispute within the commercial printing industry in Queensland. The judgment included a discussion on the applicability of annual leave to the industry:

The union claims that 'each employee, including a piece-worker, shall be entitled to and be allowed two weeks' leave on full pay in respect of each completed period of twelve calendar months’ service' and that consequential provisions be made. This Court has frequently been asked to award annual leave on full pay but has hitherto not done so except in cases where employees have to work on Sunday, or suffer some other deprivation by reason of isolation or other cause, or in cases where such leave has become the custom generally by the practice of most of the parties concerned. [p.746]

The Court considered the custom and practice of the industry:

a fair number of employees in commercial printing offices in Australia already receives paid annual leave in addition to the ordinary public holidays. Apparently the position is the same in New Zealand. [p.746]

The Court discussed the benefits of annual leave:

Unless an industry is finding difficulty in maintaining itself, in my opinion the institution of paid annual leave is a very desirable boon for employees. Although at first it might cause some increase in labour cost, this probably would not be commensurate with the shortening of the working year and ultimately might be virtually balanced by increased vigour and zeal of employees. The publication already referred to — Holidays with Pay — at p. 82 has the following passage — 'It would undoubtedly be a fallacy, even from a purely economic point of view, to regard paid holidays as a burden to the employer for which he receives no return. On the contrary, he obtains a very real return by finding his employees fresh and eager to work when they return from their holidays. He reaps an advantage in higher output, fewer spoilt goods, less absence, less sickness and fewer accidents. It is of course difficult to reckon these advantages in figures, but that they are nevertheless real is shown by the testimony of many employers who have themselves spontaneously introduced annual holidays with pay'. [p.747]

The Court considered how these bonuses were to be balanced against the needs of the industry:

The introduction of annual leave with pay should not however be made in an industry unless at the time there is a reasonable certainty of stable prosperity in the industry. As a remedy for unemployment it would, like the reduction of weekly working hours almost certainly be valueless, and it might indeed be harmful. As I have already said, this industry has I think recovered from the depression, but its restoration is recent and may not be lasting. [p.747]

Taking this into account, the Court prescribed:

I have decided to prescribe annual leave for a week with full pay for the employees in this industry, but to defer its operation until the expiration of a year from the commencement of the award. The prescription will then begin to operate unless the employers concerned satisfy a judge of the Court that the financial position of the industry then will be such that such operation will imperil the maintenance of the industry. [p.747]

The Court considered how the entitlement to paid leave would be accrued:

leave or bonus be granted in respect of three months or more service. I think there should be at least six months service before any right accrues. [p.747]