A new exhibition marking the centenary of one of Australia’s largest industrial conflicts, 1917: The Great Strike is a collaboration between Carriageworks and City of Sydney, displaying historical objects alongside commissioned artworks by Raquel Ormella, Tom Nicholson, Will French, Franck Gohier and Sarah Contos.
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 walked off the job, protesting against the introduction of a card system that recorded work times and output, and was intended to improve worker efficiency. Over the period of the strike it’s estimated that across the state around 77,350 workers went on strike. When the strike petered out in mid-September 1917, many employees at Eveleigh, and elsewhere on the NSW rail and tram network never got their jobs back. Those re-hired at the Eveleigh yards 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.