Most "D.P.s" Are Doing The Dull Work That We Shun
How Communist Unions Are
Jesic Vosin, Ukrainian, cooks in
ALMOST 15,000 men and women from
the displaced persons camps of Europe are now working in Australia. But, although they are being brought out to boost production in basic industries, the coal and steel industries of New South Wales employ-precisely one "D.P." each!
The reason is thc active and passive opposition to immigrant labour by the coal and steel unions. This obstacle to the inflow of new workers into fields where labour is so desperately needed is a danger signal to Mr. Chifley's migration policy.
The red light is showing — for Communist influence is strong in coal and steel. The Communist Party does not like the "D.P.s," for they are refugees from Stalin as well as from Hitler, and cannot be expected to strengthen
the extremists' grip on unions which admit them as members.
Discussing their hopes and worries — left to right — Paul Botond,
Vilbert Yuul, Leonhard King, Alexander Cimbrelis.
In this article a "Sunday
Herald" staff writer examines the problems of the "D.P.'s" — their employment, how they live and work, their hopes and fears.
CONSTRUCTION of Commonwealth
hostels for "D.P.s" at Newcastle and Port Kembla, however, suggests that the Government has de- cided to have a showdown on the issue.
The hostels will be completed this
year and, when they are filled with men ready to work in mines and steel- works, there may be dramatic deve- lopments.
lt is known that negotiations with mineworkers' and ironworkers' leaders have been proceeding for many months. Mr. Chifley has taken part
in some of these talks.
The Government's decision to speed the migrant flow to 250,000 — includ- ing 140,000 "D.P.s"-in the 18 months ending June, 1950, and to 500,000 within three years, brings the migration policy to the forefront of our political, economic, and social con-
It raises many problems of human adjustment as well as major national issues. These centre around the
"D.P.s," the major source of, non- British "New Australians."
Some of the questions raised are:— What Are "D.P.s" Doing?
OF the 25,000 already here, about
15,000 are working. The rest are mothers and children, or men in initial reception centres.
So far they are engaged in hard manual and domestic work which, in the post-war full employment boom, Australians would not touch. Here are the figures (as at Mav 6):
| MEN | |WOMEN | | NSW and Canberra | Aust Total | NSW and Canberra | Aust Total
Category | | | |
Building materials | 188 | 587 | — | —
Building - on site | 160 | 183 | — | 1
Hospitals, institutions | 121 | 377 | 654 | 1847
Domestics, in homes, guest houses | 64 | 168 | 426 | 759
Utilities - rail, roads, water etc. | 2020 | 5569 | — | 3
Rural - permanent | 87 | 325 | — | 5
Rural - seasonal | — | 828 | 1 | 124
Afforestation, timber getting and milling | 335 | 1726 | 2 | 14
Iron and steel | 1 | 54 | — | —
Mining -coal | 1 | 44 | — | —
Mining - gold etc | 34 | 272 | — | 1 All other | 107 | 1238 | 191 | 404 Total | 3084 | 11371 | 1274 | 3158
These workers have virtually solved two of this State's unskilled labour problems. With almost 800 of them, mostly wardsmen, wardsmaids, and domestics, the public and private hos- pitals are functioning much more smoothly than before.
Thc Water Board, with almost 1,000 "D.P.s," is thc biggest employer of such labour in N.S.W.
Are There Jobs For All?
THE answer, seems to be — yes, if
we can step up the output of coal
The Water Board, for instance, is very happy with its "D.P.s." They are hard-working. and give little trouble. But it cannot take many more until it gets more pipes for sewers, drains, and water.
This means more coal, for stone- ware pipes, and more coal and steel for steel pipes.
In the table, you will notice that there are surprisingly few "D.P.s" (87) permanently employed on N.S.W. farms. Why?
I asked a grazier, who said: "Un- doubtedly there is a heart-breaking lag
of work to be done on farms. But it is no use offering us labour unless we can get fencing wire, wire-netting, and galvanised iron."
A builder said: "If we could get ample materials we could use a huge number of men. But shortages of coal and steel have meant a perpetual shortage of every building material."
A spokesman for heavy industry: "We have enough labour to handle all raw material we can get. We will not need many more men until coal and steel are plentiful."
So coal and steel is the inevitable
refrain when prospects of expanded employment are canvassed.
* * *
How Does A "D.P." See It?
TO answer this question, I went to
Potts Hill, the Water Board camp, tucked away in a. pleasantly timbered valley not far from Chullora railway workshops.
With about 450 men, this is the largest of the board's six "D.P." camps. I interviewed:
PAUL BOTOND, 36, ¡a qualified
doctor and X-ray specialist, the only Hungarian in thc camp.
LEONHARD KING ("yes, King is a real Estonian name. But it means 'shoe' over, there"), 26 civil engineer.
VILBERT YUUL, 24, another Es- tonian, former medical student.
ALEXANDER CIMBRELIS, 27, Lithuanian, engineering student.
BASIL SKRILL, 25, Ukrainian, former high school student at Nicho- laev, Russia.
These five are the camp stewards, mainly because of proficiency in Eng-
All are married, and the main com- plaint was the absence of opportunity to be with their wives. Skrill's wife
and child are on the way out from Germany, but the wives of the others are working in hospitals and homes around Sydney.
Wives are allowed in the camp only between ll a.m. and 5 p.m. on Sundays.
Occasionally the men rent rooms, mostly at week-ends, to be with their wives, "but this costs much money." Wives, particularly in hospitals, were often on night work, and did not have week-ends off. Sometimes married couples could not see each other for
* * *
THE men are not very confident of
the future. As professional and technical men they yearn to be in their own calling. They would not mind the two years directed labour if
the way seemed clear after that — but
it does not.
Botond, with 12 years' practice as
a doctor, does not think it fair that at the end of two years manual labour he must take a three-year course in an Australian University before he can practice. He would have to work at night to support himself and family, and does not think he could
earn enough to pay the fees.
He has applied for a post as medi- cal officer in New Guinea; hopes that he might be allowed to practise after "doing time" there. Otherwise he will have to try another country.
King has a wife and child, and can- not entertain the idea of going to a university. He is taking a correspon- dence course in engineering from a British institute whose diploma is ac- cepted here.
But living is so dear that poverty shadows to-morrow — "I have no penny in my pocket."
Yuul spent several years studying medicine, but finds the years wasted — he must now take a six-year Austra-
lian course. Hopes of becoming a doctor are dying.
Cimbrelis is already supporting his wife. and is expecting his mother. He is saving hard, hopes to build a home — "and that is enough worry for to- day."
Skrill is the happiest of the five. Soon he will see his wife and, child again.
At week-ends and at nights he goes to the Public Library to read books, on internal combustion engineering, and when he settles in somewhere he will take a course at the Technical College.
* * *
WTTH no background of hard
manual work, most of the men found the pick and shovel hard go- ing —"we don't object to a 40-hour week with the pick and shovel."
Some could not make the grade and were transferred to lighter work.
But most of them took the work stoically. There are complaints,
however, that they were misled in Ger- many. They claim they were told they would be free after one year, but found they had to serve two
Minimum pay is thc basic wage plus £1/8/ a week camping allowance. Some men get considerably more, ac- cording to award provisions for the work they are on.
These men live two to a tent and have communal, washrooms, lava- tories, and kitchen. They buy, and prepare their food individually.
Thc site is well drained, the tents have wooden floors and electric light. There are no complaints about the accommodation, and Botond, who is the camp's first aid man, said the men were feeding themselves well.
About 60 per cent, of the camp at- tended English classes at a nearby school on two nights a week. More would go if it were not for the black- outs. Often they had not been able to prepare their evening meal before it was time to go to school.