Kevin Reynolds

Australian Workers Film Guide


Overlaid with still images, this is an extended interview with prominent construction union official Kevin Reynolds, in which he recounts the highlights of his career and personal life.  Reynolds was born into humble beginnings in Geraldton, Western Australia, where money was tight and his family life unstable. Working many jobs as a boy, he eventually ended up at sea working as a deck boy travelling from Fremantle to Melbourne. After first joining the Seamen’s Union, he then got a job with the Builders Labourers Federation where he first focused on extracting union fees from members, before becoming a temporary organiser and finally taking over the secretary role from Norm Gallagher in 1973.

One of the earliest campaigns he worked on was the Differential Campaign, which sought to equalise rates of pay between the west and east coasts. Reynolds remembers a range of prominent individuals he came across in his career, including an organiser by the name of Jim Bacon, who later became the Premier of Tasmania. John Cummins was an organiser from Victoria that he put to work in Western Australia on the no ticket no start campaign. He remembers the picket line at Telfer gold mine, where station owners threatened union members with firearms and how WA Premier Brian Burke rejected Bob Hawke’s pressure to smash the union on the west coast.

Under the stewardship of Norm Gallagher, Reynolds says they raised the builders labourers from the gutter to be proud of who they were.  He recalls how Bob Hawke tried to force amalgamations across the construction sector, as well as the Third Wave Campaign in 1997, when they marched on the Western Australia Parliament and established a round the clock presence for 6 months. He talks humorously about the workers embassy caravan and the ceremonial handing over of the barbeque tongs to the next union every day. While they were there the building workers built a monument dedicated to workers killed on the job, later becoming known as Solidarity Park. Kevin Reynolds proudly says that he’s been through three royal commissions, but there have been no handcuffs on him.  He believes that struggles of the working class are the same everywhere.

Special Notes/Achievements

Produced by the CFMEU.

Author: J Bird, 2023

Duration: 14 mins 3 secs

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