by John Merritt
This month (May 2019) marks the 50th anniversary of the gaoling of Victorian Tramways Union leader Clarrie O’Shea (1905-1988).
O’ Shea was gaoled in 1969 by the notorious Sir John Kerr for refusing to hand over the union’s financial records.
His imprisonment sparked a massive strike wave across the country and effectively neutralised the punitive ‘penal powers’ which were then used to suppress union militancy.
This article, first published in Sept 2007 by the Canberra Historical Journal, draws on the author’s personal interviews with Clarrie in 1981. It mainly deals with Clarrie’s life rather than the political circumstances surrounding his imprisonment.
The events of 1969 are still relevant for today’s workers whose unions are similarly hamstrung by a raft of anti-union laws.
Click here to read the article. It is reproduced with the kind permission of John Merritt and the Canberra & District Historical Society. John Merritt is a former ASSLH Branch President.