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The Great Strike of 1917

1917 saw widespread industrial unrest, beginning in Sydney and spreading across NSW, culminating in a General Strike.

The initial trigger for the strike was the introduction of a new labour costing system by the New South Wales Department of Railways and Tramways which led to workers walking off the job at Randwick Workshops and Eveleigh Carriage Works in August 1917. Discontent spread to other industries as wages had not kept pace with increasing prices during the First World War.

On the 3 September 1917, some 600 AGL (Australian Gas Light Company) workers at Mortlake went on strike. To keep vital gas services operating, positions at the gas works were filled by volunteers, referred to as ‘Loyalists’ by some and less pleasant names by others. The photograph, above, shows the tents of volunteers at AGL, from ‘Everyday scenes at Mortlake Gas Works’ published in the Sydney Mail.

The Gas Workers returned to work on 17 September 1917.