In 1992 thirty-four clerical staff at the NSW branch of the Building Workers Industrial Union and the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association went on strike over redundancies and the sacking of a young employee for alleged misconduct. An interesting study in hypocrisy, the film shows a collection of mostly female employees battling against their own male union employers for fair treatment and the recognition of seniority in the redundancy process.
The union leadership’s intransigence is highlighted in the opening scenes and throughout the film as the women picket the union building, holding posters and chanting songs of solidarity as the male leadership refuse to listen or negotiate. The hypocrisy of the situation is remarkably illustrated when a senior union official tears down the picketers’ posters stating that the building belongs to the union and the union will decide what is put on it. As the women point out, the union leadership would never allow employers to do the same to them on a building site.
There is a strong sense that women are treated differently to men within the trade union movement. The strikers are seen marching in the Wollongong May Day and Sydney May Day marches where they receive support from other participants. In the aftermath of the dispute, the two main women discuss the outcome, their feelings on how women are treated in the trade union movement and their future prospects.
Author: J Bird, 2023