[This page is under development]

(Most of the historical points selected are cited from the authoritative history "The Seamen's Union of Australia 1872-1972" by Brian Fitzpatrick and Rowan J. Cahill (1981, Seamen's Union of Australia) and "Wharfies: The History of the Waterside Workers' Federation" by Margo Beasley (1996, Halstead Press). Some pecific portions are quoted exactly by permission of the authors)

The 1890 Maritime Strike: The strike was actually part of a broad general strike in the country, which lasted for about two months, and was a determined effort by employers to crush the early Australia trade union movement. The Maritime strike involved waterside workers, seamen, shearers, coal miners and other miscellaneous trades...(read more here)

1902-1916: Birth of the Waterside Workers Federation: The Waterside Workers Federation was officially formed in February 1902 at a meeting at Parliament House in Melbourne. During a decade-and-a-half, wharfies built a sustainable framework for a national organisation, which allowed members to run the union and develop political and industrial relations...(read more here)

March 1909: First Seamens' Contract: After years of wages cuts and failure to obtain the 8-hour day, several port unions came together in a federal body with officers and an Executive Council. That was important because, until then, employers could impose conditions port-by-port through a divide-and-conquer strategy...(read more here)

The 1917 General Strike: The 1917 General Strike was the largest in Australian history, stretching from August to late October. Almost 100,000 workers took part, protesting wage increases that did not keep up with a huge jump in inflation, war profiteering and, generally, the conservative politics of the time...(read more here)

Bloody Sunday in Fremantle: A public quarantine due to an outbreak of influenza mushroomed into a major confrontation in Fremantle. When scabs (called "nationals") attempted to unload the Dimboola, which was carrying food and medical supplies, a picket sprang up mid-April as the lumpers refused to work with the non-union labour; thousands of people took part in demonstrations in late April and one march supporting the lumpers was led by 100 soldiers returning from war, armed with their revolvers...(read more here)

The Hungry Mile: As Paddy Crumlin explained, when The Hungry Mile received its official historical recognition, ‘‘The Hungry Mile is not just any place but somewhere symbolic; a symbolic place for working people and their communities; a place where workers lived, worked, fought and died in the pursuit of decent living and working conditions, not only in this country but internationally."...(read more here)

The "Dog Collar" Act: The Nationalist Government of Stanley Bruce was incensed by the strikes held by the Waterside Workers in 1928 so it pushed through the Transport Workers Act. This act stipulated that wharfies had to obtain a license in order to work--thus, the Act was more commonly referred to by wharfies as "Dog Collar Act"...(read more here)

The Death of Alan Whittaker: On November 2, 1928, hundreds of union members converged on the the Prince's Pier; a large brawl had already broken out on a train headed for the wharf between wharfies and 200 scabs. At the pier gates more blows were exchanged. The union members tried to break through police lines to storm the ships. The police struck back with batons, injuring scores of union members...(read more here)

The Great Depression: The Great Depression was an economically devastating time for all Australian workers, and, in particular, for the maritime unions...(read more here)

The Seamen's Strike Against the 1935 Dethridge Award: After more than a decade without an award, the Seamen's Union was rocked in 1935 by a new award decided by Chief Judge Dethridge. The wage rates were 2 pounds lower than the rates laid out in the previous award--an unacceptable reduction, particularly in the shadow of the Great Depression...(read more here)

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.