Challenging Historical Narratives : The Strikes Essay
Taking collective action is one of the few things that workers can do to fight for the rights and conditions. Like my father, Antonello’s father was a unionist and he gave his son, a speech not unlike the one my father gave me when I started my first job:
‘You never step onto a work site without union membership. Otherwise, the bosses will screw you. When everyone stands together that’s when workers can have some power.’ (unpublished manuscript)
There were many disputes on the Westgate Bridge during its construction – over many different issues. When the commission released its report, it attributed some blame to the men and the unions for what it referred to as ‘unjustfied’ union stoppages. It accused the unions of ‘malingering, bickering, unnecessary absenteeism and other actions and accused them of industrial sabotage.’ (Hitchings 92).
‘For their behavior on the contract, which inevitably led to the quite unnecessary weakness of the span at the relevant time, the unions and the men must bear their share of responsibility for the tragedy’ (quoted in Hitchings 92).
Trying to map all the disputes and to assess this claim by the Commission and disputed by the Unions is difficult. What is clear is that the overseas companies did not understand the Australian unions and while demarcation issues seemed trivial to some, for the unions and the workers it was about protecting their jobs – as well as about issues of safety and…