2 August 2017 marks the centenary of one of Australia’s largest industrial conflicts – the Great Strike of 1917. The strike began when employees at Eveleigh Railway Yards and the Randwick Tram Sheds downed tools in protest against new working conditions imposed during a time of war.
Around 5,790 railway and tramway employees at the Eveleigh and Randwick workshops walked off the job. They were protesting against the card system that had been introduced to the workshops. This was a new system of recording work times and output that was intended to improve worker efficiency. Over the period of the strike it is estimated that around 77,350 workers in NSW went on strike. When the strike petered out in mid-September 1917, many employees at Eveleigh, and elsewhere on NSW’s rail and tram network, never got their jobs back. Those that were re-hired at the Eveleigh yards, by then one of Sydney’s biggest employers, found their jobs had been downgraded. Although the nationwide strike lasted just six weeks, its consequences lingered for decades, creating a highly politicised workforce and a generation of politicians, including premiers and prime ministers.
Carriageworks and the City of Sydney collaborate on an exhibition marking the centenary of one of Australia’s largest industrial conflicts. 1917: The Great Strike will bring together historical objects alongside commissioned artworks by Raquel Ormella, Tom Nicholson, Will French, Franck Gohier and Sarah Contos.