The origins of Master Electricians dates back as far as 1925, when the New Zealand Electrical Federation (NZEF) met regularly with the New Zealand Electrical Wholesalers’ Federation. These federations discussed common matters that affected both the electrical contracting and wholesaling industries.
By 1933, local branch member associations could see that the changing electrical industry meant that electrical contractors and wholesalers needed to align themselves to best address the needs of all participants.
The NZEF was disbanded to create a new, more inclusive federation to encourage greater industry participation – the New Zealand Electrical Traders’ Federation.
Mid-1940s to mid-1960s
Many changes occurred from the mid-1940s to the mid-1960s, including new rules and the name reverting to the New Zealand Electrical Federation in 1946. This federation consisted of membership from Auckland, Wellington, Canterbury and Otago contractor associations, as well as Auckland and Wellington wholesaler associations.
Over time, differences emerged between the groups within the NZEF and the alignment ceased around 1957, when contracting associations met independently and formed the New Zealand Electrical Contractors Association. Two years later, it became the New Zealand Electrical Contractors Federation Incorporated (NZECF).
By 1965, Waikato and South Canterbury contracting associations were the last to enter the organisation, bringing the total association branches to 10.
A move to greater professionalism
As the aspirations of the NZECF members grew, the need to advocate on their behalf and the need for greater professionalism became stronger through the 1960s and 1970s.
Three key contributions to the organisation’s development were issuing a price book, working with the industrial union for workers and, in 1970, creating a National Office and employing a professional executive director.
The NZECF Price Book was first published and sold to members in 1962. It collated price details from manufacturers and wholesalers for all electrical products into a comprehensive and easy to use format. Prices were regularly updated as information was received, and monthly amendments were sent to members.
The Price Book provided a basis for negotiation of price variations and was available on application to professions, such as architects, consulting engineers and surveyors. The Price Book continued to be maintained and published well into the 1980s, providing a worthwhile and valued service.
In 1963, the NZECF applied to become an industrial union – the New Zealand Registered Electrical Contractors Industrial Union of Employers. It proposed a separate New Zealand Electrical Contracting Industry Award, in addition to the existing award for electrical workers. However, no further progress was made until 1970, when an Electrical Contracting Industry Award was negotiated.
The advent of the Employment Contracts Act in 1991 substantially changed the way that employees and employers negotiated and contracted with one another. As union membership diminished, so did the relevance of an industrial union.
From ECANZ to Master Electricians
A comprehensive review of the organisation in 1986 proposed to form one national body. The proposal was accepted, and in 1988 the NZECF became the Electrical Contractors Association of New Zealand (ECANZ).
The industry and the Association have evolved over time, and in 2015 ECANZ rebranded its name to Master Electricians to better reflect the professional standards and recognition that membership offers.
Electrical Training Company
The Electrical Training Company (etco) was formed in 1991 by ECANZ and the union to maintain apprenticeships in the industry. It is wholly owned by Master Electricians.
etco has New Zealand Qualification Authority (NZQA) accreditation as a training provider. Over the years, it has employed and trained in excess of 3,000 apprentices.
Throughout New Zealand, etco has eight regional offices and seven training centres. It has access to night class venues in another twenty or so towns and cities. etco also runs in-depth induction courses for over 20 apprentice trainees at a time at its residential training facility, Martynsfield, in Ramarama.