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Behind the Picket Line – Alcoa Strike 2018

August 8, 2021 5:11 pm

August 8, 2018

It began on a cold winters day in August with Alcoa members holding a mass membership meeting to discuss Alcoa’s plans to terminate their Union Agreement amdist 2 years of heated negotiations.

Due to the challenging situation, options were limited. AWU officials and the Alcoa Convenors said their piece and laid out a path forward with members calling for a vote from the floor, voting unanimously to strike.

So it began, on the 8th of August 2018 Alcoa members went on strike for the first time in around 8 years.

The story of the strike is well-known by AWU members but this is not the story of how the strike unveiled but the story behind the picket line.

The Alcoa strike took place across all Alcoa sites: Kwinana, Pinjarra, Huntly, Willowdale and Wagerup.

Members stuck together, living and breathing their solidarity with one another.


Picture – Alcoa members voting to stay outside the gate.

Members found support in their local communities, businesses and had their plight raised in both the State and Federal Parliaments. They may have walked out on Alcoa but the community would not abandon them

Behind the picket lines members were visited by ACTU Secretary, Sally McManus, AWU National Secretary, Daniel Walton, Assistant National Secretary, Misha Zelinsky and many more WA and National Officials to strongly support their cause.

Local bakers and butchers would bring down the left-over bread and meats at the end of the day to support our members’ plight and fueling their desire for justice.

AWU members used their shift roster patterns to determine who would man the picket lines overnight meaning that groups of workers who worked in different parts of the refineries and mines but may not have interacted at work were able to build lasting friendships and solidarity with those working their shift, further reinforcing their bonds and building community.

At night the picket lines would awash with activity as the camps were well-stocked and the smell of a BBQ would waft through the camp sites with roast dinners, spits and smokers a common occurence – no one went home with an empty stomach. Members would sit fireside sharing stories and experience with one another fostering strong bonds which still endure. The AWU members on the picket line were organised and at each shift change there was an unspoken respect as the eskis, fridges and food stores were always full and breakfast or dinner was pre-cooked for the next shift.

Support for our members plight came from all over, not only did the local community and businesses get behind them but it would not be uncommon to see other union flags and retired members donating time, money and supplies to keep the picket line going. The support ran deep with local musicians often attending the picket lines to sing songs and boost spirits.

The strike strengthened the AWU and fostered the next generation of unionists – many of whom may have never had any experience with the union or workplace relations and now have many stories of their own to share with those both new and old.

The AWU members at Alcoa drew a line in the sand and set a precedent that no matter where you work the AWU will have your back and will not back down in face of pressure. It’s because we are always stronger together.

Be a part of our community.

Join the AWU.

Stronger together.

 

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