The Union Carbide factory occupation of 1979

McGloin, Brendan (2012) The Union Carbide factory occupation of 1979. Honours thesis, Victoria University.


This thesis examines a seminal but largely ignored episode in Australian labour history. Jn 1979, the Altona Petrochemical Complex was the scene of a historic materialisation of class struggle, when 52 workers occupied the Union Carbide plant for a period of 51 days. It was, and remains, the longest factory occupation in Australian history. Occupations, generally, represent not only a challenge to the immediate party involved but a fundamental critique of the existing social, political and economic order, and in that sense must be understood within a broader milieu of resistance to the imperatives of power. Furthermore, the act of occupation is an occurrence that can be designated as a "weapon of the weak." Factory occupations are the highest and most audacious form of occupation as they, like all occupations, challenge the supposed inviolability of property, but transcend the potentialities of other occupations by challenging the property and privileges of the ruling class. The Union Carbide Sit-in Strike constituted one such challenge. This thesis, which is situated within the broader narrative of "history from below", has been enabled by the recent acquisition of the private papers of one of the leading participants. Until now, these archival sources have not been the subject of any previous scholarly study.

Item type Thesis (Honours thesis)
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1503 Business and Management
Historical > FOR Classification > 2103 Historical Studies
Historical > FOR Classification > 2202 History and Philosophy of Specific Fields
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Social Sciences and Psychology
Keywords Union Carbide Corporation, Altona, Melbourne, sit-down strikes, employees, striking workers, history of strikes, industrial relations, occupations, 1970s, factories, 35-Hour Week Movement, unions, working conditions, petroleum chemicals industry
Download/View statistics View download statistics for this item

Search Google Scholar

Repository staff login