Oakdale – 6.3 Million Reasons To Belong To The Union

Australian Workers Film Guide


A short documentary that tells the story of the 125 miners who lost not only their jobs but also $6.3 million in entitlements when the Oakdale colliery, west of Wollongong in New South Wales, went broke in 1999. With the backing of their union, these miners and their families took their fight to the nation’s capital to ultimately force a hostile Howard Government into accessing a fund to pay their entitlements. This victory established the principle that the entitlements of Australian workers must be protected when companies go bankrupt, which eventually led to today’s Fair Entitlement Guarantee scheme.

The film opens with miners talking about losing their jobs and entitlements, along with footage of marching miners overlaid with mainstream radio commentary. The film makes extensive use of broadcast news reports and current affairs TV reporting on the dispute, featuring miners and their families, as well as central union and political figures. Roy Lamoon, President of the Oakdale Lodge and Tony Maher, General President of the CFMEU Mining & Energy Division recount the details surrounding the dispute and outline the campaign to win back the men’s entitlements.

The film features a bus of mining union delegates travelling to Canberra to make their point, as well as a billboard truck parked outside a government minister’s electoral office and subsequently also taken to Canberra. The impact on miners and their families is also explored, as well as the impact on the community and local commerce. Radio commentator Alan Jones speaks sympathetically about the miners’ plight while Peter Reith is identified as a major government obstacle to resolving the situation. While union leaders call for a special levy to protect all Australian workers’ entitlements, Labour leader Kim Beazley calls the dispute a timely reminder of the importance of unions in protecting workers. Ray Lamoon finishes by stating that if you’re in a strong union you can win the battle.

Special Notes/Achievements

Author: J Bird, 2023

Duration: 23 min 45 secs

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