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16 May - Burying the hatchet

By the beginning of May, the union’s resources were exhausted and employers were eager for a full workforce to complete orders for the coming season. The employers agreed to re-employ strikers and pay wages set by the Wages Board, and the union agreed to withdraw their demands that shop stewards be formally recognised and only unionist labour be employed in agricultural implements factories. The strike officially ended on 16 May, three long months after it had started.

Union organisers thought the strike would last only a few days. It cost an estimated £54,000 in lost wages and over £250,000 in lost production and sales, and left the AIMU bankrupt and incapable of pursuing any significant industrial action until 1925.

Handwritten 16-line poem entitled 'The Burial of the Hatchet' which was written by journalist Nathaniel McKay to commemorate the end of the agricultural Implements workers' strike
Journalist Nathaniel McKay, HV McKay’s brother, wrote a poem to commemorate the end of the strike called ’The Burial of the Hatchet’. Museum Victoria.

The Burial of the Hatchet

Not a grunt was heard, not a stray Boohoo

Not a hiss from the usual snorters,

But we heartily joined in the big shivoo

As we followed the Hatchet Escorters.

The grave was dug & the pall was spread

By the light of a guttering candle,

And we planted the axe in its lonely bed

With six feet of earth o’er the handle.

The Reverend Russell conducted the Bier,

Brother Barger performed as Chief Mourner,

While Skehan let fall a quarter pint tear

Down the back of McKay in the corner.

Few & short were the speeches they made

But we all feel glad it’s passed over.

We’re proud to lose sight of the Tomahawk Blade.

Hurrah! We’ll get back into Clover.

Poem by NB McKay

Workers putting threads on spokes for main or offisde wheels
Workers putting threads on spokes for main or offisde wheels
Museum Victoria
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