Here you can view the chronology of the major unions which form the modern AWU – the “old” AWU, and FIMEE. These two unions amalgamated in 1993. The AWU timeline below continues after 1993. The FIMEE timeline finishes with the amalgamation in 1993.
William Guthrie Spence and David Temple begin organising shearers; establishment of Australasian Shearers Union on 16 June 1886 at Fern’s Hotel in Ballarat. The new union is headquartered in the town of Creswick near Ballarat in Victoria.
Creswick, Bourke and Wagga Wagga unions form Amalgamated Shearers Union of Australia; Creswick dominates. Spence, President, Temple Secretary. Formation of Queensland Shearers Union. Biggest Queensland union by 1889.
ASU grows interstate (NSW Vic. & SA); Membership claimed: 20,000 shearers.
Establishment of Brisbane Worker. ASU conference: decision to enforce closed shop/blockade; affiliation with Trades Halls in New South Wales and Victoria. QSU affiliates with Australian Labour Federation. Maritime Strike (August-November).
ASU organises General Labourers Union February on behalf of shed-hands; QSU and Queensland Workers Union (shed-hands) form AWUQ. Queensland pastoral strike. July: ASU Executive Council concedes freedom of contract. Wagga Branch publishes The Hummer.
Macdonell successfully pushes for ASU/GLU amalgamation New South Wales to form the Australian Workers Union, David Temple walks out of conference; William Spence replaces him as General Secretary. Pastoral strike.
Impact of economic depression and drought prompts membership fall from estimated 17,000 to 7,000; continues falling throughout 1890s; AWU closes branches; AWU head office shifts to Sydney.
AWU first union to gain representation at Political Labor League conferences; PLL asks AWU to organise country New South Wales.
Donald Macdonell becomes General Secretary.
AWU membership estimated at 14,000; pastoral strike; pressure from Machine Shearers Union.
AWU and AWUQ amalgamate: total membership 30,000, ‘largest and wealthiest union in Australia’.
MSU collapses; first Federal Pastoral Industry Award.
Macdonell dies; replaced as General Secretary by Tom White.
White dies; Edward Grayndler becomes General Secretary.
Amalgamation with the AWA (Qld); Sydney Worker becomes Australian Worker.
Conscription referendums; 1917 strike in New South Wales.
Amalgamation with the FMEA (metal mining). AWU Membership est. 86,000.
One Big Union movement rises and collapses.
Formation of the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
Great Depression. Federal Labor split; the World revives and collapses. Pastoral Workers Industrial Union active in New South Wales and Victoria.
Clarrie Fallon becomes Queensland Branch secretary. Queensland largest AWU branch with estimated 53,000 members.
The 50th Anniversary since the foundation of the AWU celebrated at the Union’s Birthplace in Ballarat.
Grayndler retires. Clarrie Fallon General Secretary.
AWU dissents from Curtin Government decision to send conscripts to the South-West Pacific theatre of operations.
Beecher Hay General Secretary
Hay deposed as General Secretary. Tom Dougherty becomes General Secretary.
Coal strike. Henry Boote, Australian Worker editor (1916-43), dies. Snowy Mountains Scheme begins.
AWU denounces groupers; ALP splits.
Queensland ALP splits.
Clyde Cameron forms Council for Membership Control.
Mount Isa dispute.
AWU affiliates with the ACTU.
Tom Dougherty dies; Frank Mitchell becomes General Secretary. AWU abandons White Australia policy.
Merger of Brisbane Worker and Australian Worker; New South Wales AWU announces amalgamation with Shop Assistants Union.
Proposed amalgamation between BWIU and AWU in New South Wales revealed; AWU-SAU amalgamation collapses.
Wide comb dispute; first ‘incapacity to pay’ application by NFF.
Charlie Oliver retires as New South Wales AWU president.
The 100th Anniversary since the foundation of the AWU celebrated at the Union’s Birthplace in Ballarat.
Robe River dispute.
Gill Barr General Secretary.
Errol Hodder General Secretary.
Mike Forshaw General Secretary.
AWU amalgamates with FIMEE. Combined membership estimated at 160,000. Name of the new union The AWU-FIMEE Amalgamated Union. Joint National Secretaries were Michael Forshaw (AWU) and Steve Harrison (FIMEE), Joint National Presidents were Bob Redmond (FIMEE) and Bill Ludwig (AWU).
NFF-AWU ‘peace deal’.
Michael Forshaw resigns, Ian Cambridge new Joint National Secretary.
AWU-FIMEE Amalgamated Union changes it’s name to The Australian Workers’ Union.
Rules changed to only have one National Secretary and one National President with Steve Harrison and Bill Ludwig filling those positions.
Steve Harrison resigns, Vern Falconer new National Secretary.
BHP Steel announces that the Newcastle Steelworks to close in 1999.
Terry Muscat elected National Secretary. Graham Roberts elected National President.
Bill Shorten elected National Secretary, Bill Ludwig elected National President and Graham Roberts elected Assistant National Secretary all unopposed.
Ansett Australia collapses leaving over 15,000 employees out of working including several thousand AWU members. AWU joins with other unions in a long campaign to ensure former Ansett workers recieve their full entitlements.
AWU National Office moves to Melbourne from Sydney where it had been since 1895, however an annex of the National Office remains in Sydney.
New AWU website launched at AWU National Conference.
The Australian Worker is re-launched in a joint effort between the AWU and Australian Consolidated Press.
Bill Shorten re-elected National Secretary, Bill Ludwig re-elected National President and Graham Roberts re-elected Assistant National Secretary all unopposed.
Boeing Williamtown Dispute.
The 120th Anniversary since the foundation of the AWU celebrated at the Union’s Birthplace in Ballarat.
John Howard’s WorkChoice Laws defeated at the 2007 Federal Election, National Secretary Bill Shorten elected to Federal Parliament.
Paul Howes is elected National Secretary of the Union becoming the Union’s youngest ever National Secretary. Ben Swan elected as Assistant National Secretary following resignation of Graham Roberts. The National Office returns to Sydney.