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l i m e  b u r n e r s
2 0 1 8

lime burners

Sholto Buck, Lila Bullen-Smith, Ardit Hoxha + Lily Worrall

text by Sholto Buck

2018

Warkworth is in a state of industrial warfare. 

Pickets are established at four different points and if a passerby appears to be an able-bodied man, he is advised to keep away from the Wilson Cement Company.

For the first time in the history of the Warkworth lime and cement industry, the workers deem it necessary to use that wasteful bludgeon, the strike.

A cement chimney stands resolutely amidst thickets of uncut grass and beech trees. Its family of arches, walls gone to rubble and shattered floors keep sombre company; and cast a shadow of an industry long abandoned. 

The mortar bears the scars of its age, having come to look like bark, as though it grew out of the ground along with the forest. 

The strike at Warkworth was carried out by the cement workers union, who sought to renegotiate a contract that had expired on the 15th of August, 1913. The union agreed that the 47 hour work week should remain unaltered. However, their new demands sought an increase for overtime. Time and a quarter would instead be time and a half. The holiday clause, under these demands, would also mean that workers were paid double rates for Sunday work. 

The cement workers union also demanded that rotary burners should be supplied with an assistant when two or more kilns were working. A demand which the directors took umbrage with.

The strikes at Warkworth took place one month before the great strikes of 1913. Unions at this time were influenced by the revolutionary industrial unionism of their European and American counterparts. 

The unions believed that they could take control of their workplaces if enough workers took part in a general strike. Upwards of 16,000 workers took part in the great strikes of 1913, which were the most violent in New Zealand's history. 

Current visitors to the Warkworth cement works arrive as keen swimmers; plunderers of what is now a concrete playground, on their way to more refreshing sport in the Mahurangi river. 

Though once the site was worked year round, it now stands as a relic which for many exists only in summer. How strange, to think of erosion steadily turning work into play. 

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