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 recording the events had his film embargoed. It was Sydney, 1917.
The world was in the grip of “The Great War”. As part of the war effort, rail and tram employees were working long hours with reduced pay. When a new American ‘timecard’ system was imposed, they walked off the job in protest, triggering the strike. It became the biggest industrial upheaval Australia has seen before or since.
Despite being a crushing defeat at the time, it had lasting consequences for the Australian labour movement. The film will reflect on both the trauma and the positive legacy of the event, which still strongly resonates today.