Documentary about events which shaped Australian society and the labor movement for a century and beyond.
Thousands had stopped work, the government recruited volunteers to break the strike, allowing them to bear arms; unions were deregistered and union leaders charged with conspiracy. It was a time of violent emotions, state violence and individual acts of violence by and against strikers. A striker was shot and killed. A filmmaker had his film embargoed. It was Sydney, 1917.
The world was in the grip of “The Great War”. Rail and tram employees had been forced to work longer hours, with reduced wages and conditions. With the introduction of a new American ‘timecard’ system, tramway and railway workers in inner Sydney walked off the job in protest, triggering the strike.
The stoppage became the biggest industrial upheaval Australia has seen before or since. At its height the strike stopped coastal shipping, mining, stevedoring and transport, and involved tens of thousands of workers in Australia’s eastern states.
Despite being a crushing defeat at the time, it had lasting consequences for the Australian labor movement. It was 100 years ago, but personal stories rarely spoken about were to filter through, reflecting on both the trauma and the positive legacy of the event, which still strongly resonate today.
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