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Issue #1921      June 29, 2020

Out the gate

Thousands in action for a living wage

Strikes by 4000 Naval dockyard workers and 1000 gas-workers stand out in a wave of industrial struggle which this week reached heights not seen for years in NSW.

These struggles are being waged against employers and courts’ attempts to peg wages while the prices workers must pay for necessities are rising.

The strikes continue despite court penalties and sometimes despite Industrial group leaders’ treachery and cowardice.

Prices rise

The bread price-rise and threats of rises in butter and doctors’ fees have told the workers what to expect.

They know that their wages were pegged by the arbitration court in September 1953, so wage increases can’t be the cause of these price-grabs.

The. real cause was indicated by Communist Party secretary L L Sharkey when he told the last CPA Congress that “as a consequence of the huge armaments expenditure inflation has not been controlled [...]. Prices of the necessaries of life and the small amenities […] have continued to rise

“This, together with the abolition of quarterly wage adjustments, has reduced the real wages, of the working class.”

The huge profits of BHP and other monopolies have also stung the workers into action.

Firemen only took action after long and fruitless negotiation. They scored a decisive victory, gouging a 42-hour week out of their employers, with the additional two hours to be paid for at overtime rates.

Lightning win

For Builders’ Laborers also, unity and courage yielded a lightning victory. Within a few days the Master Builders surrendered on the main demands – payment for public holidays in addition to the present allowance; up to eight hours per week wet-weather money and weekly hiring.

Printers, not generally known as militants, are demanding increased wages from Truth and Sportsman Ltd, who, as we go to press, are getting the other press barons’ aid in trying’ to break the strike – so far without success.

In the chemical industries, 100 ironworkers from ICI Botany plant are standing firm in their battle for more pay from this giant profit-hungry monopoly.

At their strike meeting, on Monday, they decided to bring their wages demand into line with the general demand of all ICI workers for an increase in the chemical disability rate of 12/6; this presenting a common demand on the boss, with the Ironies spearheading the struggle at this stage and receiving united support from the job.

Out 20 weeks

All workers applaud the iron determination of the Morts Dock Iron workers, now in the 20th week of their strike for a £1 a week increase. The company could meet the claim for £15 a week or less, but prefers to lose £9000 per week (on its own story) to beat the men.

Others in the strike wave include Quality Castings moulders (seeking £1 per week rise) Mortlake gas-workers (for a wage rise) and Newcastle gas-workers (protesting against victimisation – the 4th strike there this year after 80 years without a strike.)

All Abattoirs unions are combining to secure a general agreement to get better wages and conditions for all. Tradesmen held a short strike last week. Riverstone workers have threatened a 24-hour stoppage.

Leichhardt bus mechanics struck to get a vehicle builder reinstated.

The dockyard workers stepped dramatically into the fight in stop-work meetings last Monday where they decided to strike until demands are met.

They were driven to it by no less than eight years of fruitless efforts to get negotiations on their log of claims.

New sections

The mighty movement is spreading to ever-new sections of the workers – for example to the ambulance men.

Marching through the streets to the Labor Council meeting (which supported them) these highly-responsible workers drew attention to the fact that only a seventh of ambulance funds comes from the Government.

The rest they have to raise by charity – raffle tickets and chocolate wheels.

They are talking of industrial action if their claims aren’t met.

Two deputations, the second consisting of more than 50 delegates – to the Health Minister, combined with decisions as to what might follow rejection of their claims, won a complete victory for Hospital employees.

Workers at Austral Bronze, Australian Aluminium, and other factories have kept the non-ferrous metal shops well in the picture with 24-hour stoppages and a short strike.

Other sections of the industrial army in action recently or currently include such diverse elements as Commonwealth Rolling Mills cranes drivers (Port Kembla) loco engineers at BHP (Newcastle) Sanitary Carters and Clerks at Australian General Electric (Auburn) and Poole and Steel shipyards.

This overall picture, incomplete as it is, shows the workers on the march. It also shows that unity can defeat all attempts at repression, legalistic or otherwise. It can also defeat grouper-Menzies treachery.

It can frustrate the wage-slashes which stem from Menzies war-policy and go on to defeat Menzies himself.

This article originally appeared in Tribune July, 1955.

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