THE word strike is normally associated with gloomy terms such as picketing, scabs, and unions. But, the Queerah meatworks strike in 1962 was more glee than gloom according to four northern Queensland graziers.
Duncan McDougall, Proserpine, Rob Wearing, Hughenden, Charlie “Chook” Knuth, Ridgelands, and Henry Atkinson, Hervey’s Range, were just four of the some 100 graziers that moved into Queerah meatworks, Cairns, after workers went on strike in July 1962.
An archived report on the Queerah Meatworks dispute described the period from July 9-19 as “a phase in the fight which has been taking place at these works during the present season to protect trade union organisation on the job.”
Thirteen boners, including the Union President, had recently been sacked for alleged go-slow prior to the strike according to the report. While the Industrial Commission and Conciliation Commissioner Austin directed the men’s re-employment as boners, the Union President was employed as a trimmer, reducing his wages by half.
“A company official called a stop work meeting of the boning room workers and told them that those who wanted to follow the company to get back and work and those who wished to follow the Union – out the gate,” the report stated.
As workers left the gate, graziers were called in to keep the meatworks going.
What ensued were late-night sojourns to see nurses, a few fights, and a lot of fun.
Make sure you get the October 17 edition of the North Queensland Register to read Duncan, Rob, Chook and Henry’s accounts of the 1962 strike.
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