Produced for the Trades and Labor Council of Western Australia, this short documentary recounts the 1986 Woodside Dispute, which saw fourteen offshore oil platform drillers sacked for holding a stop working meeting over safety concerns. When management refused to re-instate the drillers, the rest of the platform workers joined them in strike action, which resulted in all workers being sacked and the platform shutdown from production.
The film begins with an aerial of the offshore platform, followed by a group of strikers singing a protest song in a recording studio. This material is intercut with interviews of the strikers recounting events, talking about what motivated them to take action as well as highlighting the tactics managed used to break their resolve. Much of the discussion revolves around management’s ploy to reinstate them on the condition that they refrained from any industrial action in the future. The strikers saw this as a fundamental attack on their rights, which if successful, could flow onto other workers around the country.
The men talk about management shutting off communication with the outside, including television and radio networks. The men responded by restricting the landing of helicopters on the rig. The workers also have fond memories of the comradeship displayed during the dispute. Threatened with $10,000 in fines, the workers were forced off the rig five days later. While it began as a result of safety concerns, the dispute had now become a pure power struggle between Woodside management and the union. In the end, the workers had to sign an agreement for continuity of supply and returned to work.
Funded by the A.W.U., A.M.W.U. and the E.T.U.
Produced for the Trades and Labor Council of Western Australia.
Author: J Bird, 2023