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- New resources for labour history: 1998 Maritime Dispute archive
- Brown, Sarah; Love, Peter
- Most 'Labour History' readers will remember the 1998 Maritime Dispute as a set-piece battle in the neoliberal assault on Australian workers' ability to bargain collectively. The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), one of the most resolute defenders of collective bargaining, was the target of an elaborate strategy developed by Patrick Stevedores, the National Farmers' Federation and the Commonwealth Government to dismiss unionised waterside workers and replace them with non-union labour. The open conflict that erupted after the mass sackings on the wharves during Easter 1998, and the associated complex industrial, legal and political developments, have been well documented by Helen Trinca and Anne Davies in 'Waterfront'. The long-term significance of the dispute was obvious to any serious observer from the beginning, not least the unionists and academics who decided, as the conflict dragged on, to create an archive on the dispute. Activists, academics and archivists are painfully aware of how quickly important records can be lost during or soon after industrial disputes. By their nature, major disputes generate material from a diversity of sources and much of it is ephemeral. This is particularly so with material published on Internet web sites, which in this case played such an important part in mobilising international support for the MUA cause. Accordingly, at a meeting in December 1998 at the Standard Hotel in Fitzroy, a group of activists decided to establish an archive project. A Steering Committee was formed comprising unionists, retired politicians, academics and archivists. A joint appeal for funds to support the project was sent to unions from the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and the Melbourne Branch of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History (ASSLH). The first Project Officer, Leon Weigard, was appointed and commenced to identify and collect material, working out of a room made available by the Victorian Trades Hall Council. When Leon moved on to another job he was replaced by Sean Butler who completed the collecting and prepared the finding aid for the archive. In December 2001 it was formally handed over to the Australian National University (ANU) Archivist who accepted it on behalf of the Noel Butlin Archives Centre at the ANU, where the MUA and ACTU records are held. In the course of the project, the Victorian Trades Hall Council Library and the University of Melbourne Archives provided generous infrastructure support.
- Publication type
- Journal article
- Labour History, No. 82 (May 2002), pp. 155-157
- Publication year
- 1998 Maritime Dispute; 20th century history; Activism; ACTU; Archives; ASSLH; Australia; Australian Council of Trade Unions; Australian Society for the Study of Labour History; Collective bargaining; Ephemeral material; Historical material; Howard Government; Important events; Information management; Labour history; Maritime Union of Australia; MUA; National Farmers' Federation; Patrick Stevedores; Preservation; Sackings; Scabs; Strikes; Trade unions; Waterside workers
- Australian Society for the Study of Labour History
- Publisher URL
- Copyright © 2002 The Australian Society for the Study of Labour History.
- Peer reviewed