20th Anniversary of Melbourne Tramways dispute

by Peter Riley and Margaret Creagh

On the night (Saturday 30th January 2010) I brought along some memorabilia: photos, documents, clippings from news media from the time (of the dispute).

We showed these at Camp Eureka site of Community & Union Solidarity event over the Easter weekend last year; and prior to that at a Workers Control conference in Sydney several years ago.

These “artifacts” from the ‘primitive past’ prompted a few recollections and some laughter.

Some who were present would have been interviewed for radio broadcast but I did not bring along recorder as I was not focussed; mixed emotions clash evening for me, nor am I up to date tech savy enough to do interviews on the spot alas.

However there were some good folks from community radio 3CR present who may have had a recorder on hand; those trammies who did the midday updates and Tramathon on 3CR during the events were not about on the night. http://www.3cr.org.au

Our daughter drove up from regional Victoria so we departed early while the starting to get rowdy crowd was civil and not too pissed.

A few officials involved in the Tramways Union election campaign that installed the sellout machine were present, still annoying a few even after all these years (including myself). Lou Di Gregorio who has been Secretary for 20 years since the dispute was a no show except on screen (which was huge so disturbing enough).

Mostly a social event & re-union the only speeches was a list of the now dead trammies read out which was a bit of a downer – it was LONG !

In the year after the dispute, in the gloom of defeat many marriages and relationships broke up, addictions escalated and some suicides occurred.

Other workers died later of work stress related diseases like heart attacks and strokes. Many died of cancer, probably a legacy of smoking & driving in peak hour traffic and the dust from the sand brake system mixed with road toxics like asbestos common in brake linings for decades.

A few present in conversation with me have concluded that with the current anti-terror climate nowadays we would not have been able to take the trams and busses into the City and even the depot occupations would have been a test for the security forces to try out tactics on us….the then hostile media would be even more outraged currently at “sabotage” “violence” “militant union thuggery” etc…which seemed to be a round about way of saying they would not do it all again now.

But a few stalwarts said they would go through it all again and use internet. text messages etc to make quicker tactics which was encouraging but it was all said over beers raving away…but the universal feeling was the Myki ticket system etc and Private Corporations are shite.

A couple of videos were shown which used staunch old timer Ken’s footage; they have been edited into digital format and distributed.

Seeing “Connie Killer Kennan” again up on the screen – smug as ever – raised a few boos from those drinking !

Some Brunswick unionists made their own home edited videos with many of those in the room from 20 years ago and at parties etc since.

Seeing a 20 year younger version of yourself in a crowded room with others aged on is a bit of a blast/embarassment I can tell you !

The photos etc were mixed with excerpts from big budget films and classic footage like nuclear bomb destruction of a “brick house” morphed to be the Fort ie Brunswick Depot…Marx Brothers, Laurel & Hardy, Matrix slow motion fighting and bullet dodging but with a TOO LOUD soundtrack (system was set up for band who performed at 10pm).

Roberto D’Andrea and friends wore conductors uniforms and bags for the occasion; they punched tickets on the night.

His depot South Melbourne is gone now and the site converted into inner city apartments. They are still doing a bring back the connies campaign appearing at sites and events all over Melbourne & Victoria.

They have a video or two up on Youtube if you want to see their efforts, with cut up from Ken’s footage and the 10th anniversary event:


There may be another session on the Lockout at camp Eureka (see below) next Anzac/April long weekend.

Peter Riley and Margaret Creagh



Class Actions and other 3CR radio shows have asked about recordings being available to use.



This maybe possible since the night with others besides me from the dispute.

The current delegate at the Brunswick depot has arranged with media eg. an Italian language interview for SBS.


Melbourne Tram Dispute and Lockout January – February 1990 Anarcho-Syndicalism in Practice by Richard Curlewis (IWW)

A pamphlet by Jura Media Publications, Sydney. 1997

Distributed by Jura Books PO Box N32, Petersham North, NSW 2049, Australia


Melbourne Tram Dispute and Lockout January – February 1990 Anarcho-Syndicalism in Practice by Richard Curlewis (IWW)

Sparks was originally published by a group of anarcho-syndicalist transport workers in Melbourne; the first issue appearing in May 1986.

It has continued but is now produced in Sydney see



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