Painters And Dockers Strike

Australian Workers Film Guide


Produced by the rank and file of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union, under the guidance of filmmakers Tom Zubrycki and Russ Hermann, this observational documentary covers the painters and dockers strike at Sydney’s Naval Dockyard on Garden Island, which ran from February 18 to May 21, 1976.

Viewed as a bastion of militancy, the Fraser Government attempted to weaken the union’s power on the naval docks by disallowing accumulated disability rates for unpleasant work environments that flowed on from the New South Wales parent award. The Government also sought to abolish the union roster system, which allocated employment on the docks.  Both issues were eventually resolved by arbitration, in favour of the 300 striking workers. The strike underscored the importance of gaining the support of workers in other industries in producing a successful outcome.

Accompanied by a union song, the film opens with images of the Naval Docks and workers carrying placards as they enter a meeting in which various speakers address the workers regarding the progress of the strike, their success in raising strike pay from other unions and the need to keep fighting. Rank and file members are given the opportunity to speak, before they vote to stay out on strike. The observational style is interspersed with impromptu interviews, in which Zubrycki and Hermann appear on camera to ask union officials and strikers questions about the strike.

Shot on an early black and white video camera, the quality of the footage is poor and suffers from extensive tape dropouts. However the poor quality analogue technology gives the film a grassroots visceral feel.

Special Notes/Achievements

Credits state “Produced by Rank & File of P & D’s.  Assisted by Tom Zubrycki, Russ Hermann.

Author: J Bird, 2023

Duration: 32 mins

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Film Director: Tom Zubrycki, Russ Hermann,

Film Producer: Tom Zubrycki, Russ Hermann,

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Film Key Cast: Russ Hermann – Interviewer, Tom Zubrycki – Interviewer,

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