|Description of this FunctionDescription of this Function|
The registration of factories is for our purposes viewed as a specific function within a broader context of industry regulation.
The term "industry" conveys a notion of all trade or manufacturing concerns including agricultural pursuits, utilisation of natural resources, finance and banking services, tourist facilities, retail traders and other service providers. The regulation of "industry" may therefore relate to one or more of the particular industry sectors or may relate to industry as a whole (ie. all sectors).
The registration of factories was the prime mechanism introduced to regulate manufacturing enterprises with respect to physical employment conditions (workplace health and safety) and non-physical employment conditions (wages, leave entitlements etc.). It also served to regulate free trade thereby protecting certain enterprises from "unfair" competition. Furthermore, factory registration also served to protect public health and welfare. These concerns were initially regulated in the manufacturing industry only, however, from 1915 the retail industry was also regulated in this way through the introduction of shop registration. Gradually the regulation of workplace health and safety and employment conditions, the regulation of free trade and the regulation of public health and welfare came to apply across most industry sectors.
Other forms of industry regulation have been introduced by Government. With respect to the Labour and Industry portfolio the other forms of regulation have included the regulation of retail trading hours, the regulation of employment agencies, the introduction of consumer protection legislation evolving out of trade practices regulation and the further protection of workplace and public health and safety through the registration and licensing of hairdressers, cinematograph operators, engine drivers, boiler attendants, welders of boilers and pressure vessels, scaffolding inspectors and scaffolders. A further form of regulation which has at times been connected with the Labour and Industry portfolio has been the regulation of the sale and supply of tobacco and liquor.
The original purpose of the Supervision of Workrooms and Factories Act 1873 was to "mitigate the worst evils of the factory system" whilst providing for the "exigencies of trade". The legislation was found to be inadequate by a Royal Commission on Employees in Shops, which reported in March 1884. The concerns investigated by the Commission mostly related to the health, safety and welfare of employees in industry.
The recommendations of the Royal Commission included the regulation of industry primarily through the registration of factories which involved the payment of annual fees, ensuring factories were open for inspection, the keeping of employee and other records in factories and payment of penalties for lack of compliance with the legislation. The recommendation with respect to factory registration was introduced following the passing of the Factories and Shops Act 1885 (49 Vic., No.862), which became operative March 1886. The Act provided for the registration and inspection of factories and workrooms in proclaimed metropolitan areas only.
Although the registration of factories developed as a means of improving labour conditions it also enabled industry competition to be controlled. This is particularly evident with the Factories and Shops Amendment Act 1887 (51 Vic., No.961) which extended the definition of factory (by that time defined as a place in which six or more persons worked) to include workplaces employing any number of Chinese. This redefinition of factory was consolidated in the Factories and Shops Act 1896 (60 Vic., No.1445) which introduced specific registration and regulation of furniture factories and Chinese laundries, industries in which Chinese workers operated at competitive rates, to protect the non-Chinese workers in these industries (for example, the widowed charwomen who normally undertook laundry work).
The 1896 Act also provided for the registration of out-workers in the clothing trade to cope with the "sweating evil" in that trade. Out-workers were employees of factories who worked from home, often at much cheaper rates than workers in factories.
The Minister of Labour assumed responsibility for the registration of factories from the Chief Secretary (VRG 26) in 1900.
Until 1912 registration of factories was only required in any city, town or borough although could be applied to shires by Order in Council. An Order in Council was subsequently passed on 2 September 1912 extending to the whole State the provisions of the Factories and Shops Acts relating to factories.
The Labour and Industry Act 1953 replaced the Factories and Shops Act with respect to factory registration. The Shop Trading Act 1987, operative from November 1987, repealed the Labour and Industry Act 1958 in so far as it provided for the registration of factories.