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01 August - Coal miners strike defies Ben Chifley

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01 August - Coal miners strike defies Ben Chifley

Unread postby Max ADU » Thu Aug 01, 2013 11:30 am

Today in Australian History
Monday, August 1, 1949.

The Australian government sends in army troops to work the mines during the extensive Coal Miner's Strike, effectively ending the strike.

The strike by 23,000 coal miners lasted for seven weeks, causing much industry was forced to shut down and unemployment increased.

From 27 June 1949
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to 15 August 1949, before Ben Chifley Federal Labor Government sent troops to the open cut coal mines in New South Wales on 28 July 1949

Miners demanded better conditions
The Australian coal miners' strike of 1949 was sparked by a clash between the miners' basic rights and concerns, and the government's interest in supporting business and mining interests.

Coal mining had a high fatality rate, with around 25 miners being killed at work annually.

Miners sought the implementation of essential safety policies, as well as a 35-hour week, long service leave, and a 30 shilling a week pay rise.

To counter the control of the unions, some of which were led by members of the Communist Party of Australia, the Chifley government brought in strong anti-union laws.

Electricity supply was severely restricted and laws were brought in to prevent wastage of the limited supplies.

Chifley's comeback
Prime Minister Ben Chifley together introduced the National Emergency (Coal Strike) Bill into federal parliament, putting it into immediate effect.

The bill froze any trade
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union funds intended to assist the strike, and made it illegal for anyone to offer financial aid or support to any of the striking miners.

The strike finally ended when, on 1 August 1949, Chifley sent in 2,500 army troops to operate coal mines at Minmi, near Newcastle in New South Wales, Muswellbrook and Ben Bullen.

Two weeks later, miners returned to work, without their demands being met.

This was the first time the Australian military was sent in during peacetime to end a strike.
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