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Collins, William Charles (Charlie) (1890–1984)

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William Charles Henry (Charlie) Collins (1890-1984) railway employee and trade union leader 

Birth: 1890 at Benalla, Victoria, son of native-born parents William Charles Collins (1865-1947), railwayman, and Susannah, née Bilham (1858-1939). Marriage: 1914 in Victoria to Amy Isabel Date (1892-1964). They had one daughter and three sons. Death: 20 April 1984 at Glen Waverley, Victoria. 

  • Youth covered period of 1903 railway strike, retaining bitter memories of reprisals visited on defeated drivers (including his father) and families by Victorian premier, Sir William (‘Iceberg’) Irvine.
  • Joined Victorian Railways in 1909, following father into locomotive branch as supernumerary engine cleaner. As temporary employee, he joined Amalgamated Society of Engineers, because only permanent officers were accepted in the Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association. When first working on trains had to fire for a 1903 scab who harassed him, later returning the compliment.
  • Achieving permanency, he was elected secretary of local branch of loco union in Benalla, also secretary of Australian Labor Party in Benalla, but following petition from scab railwaymen in about 1918 he transferred to Melbourne as a fireman.
  • Foreman of Box Hill locomotive yard he was also former secretary of scabs in 1903 and further aggravation occurred in respect of rosters. In 1916 treasurer, 1919 assistant secretary, 1924 acting secretary, 1927 secretary of the State branch of Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen (AFULE) — holding union positions for 40 years. Vice president of the federal branch and from 1925 was president.
  • Successfully negotiated with Jack Cain, Minister for Railways in the Hogan government re superannuation, AFULE’s status vis a vis scab union and reported Cain to ALP executive re differential pay rates paid to steam versus electric locomotive drivers.
  • Retired from union position in 1950, after twenty-three years as secretary. Like Ben Chifley and A. S. Drakeford, was awarded honorary life membership of AFULE.

Sources
Recorder
, 130, August 1984; The Footplate, Nov-Dec 1925; The Locomotive Journal, 12 October 1950.

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Citation details

'Collins, William Charles (Charlie) (1890–1984)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/collins-william-charles-charlie-33074/text41239, accessed 29 January 2023.

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