This photograph from 1944 caught my attention:
What could have prompted the Prime Minister to intervene over firemen’s coats?
Apparently the N.S.W. brigade were the only firemen in Australia not to receive a overcoat as part of their standard uniform. Earlier the union’s request for uniforms had been knocked back “due to the war situation”. However, having shivered through the previous winter, they were not prepared to do so again, and were happy to accept surplus military coats. Only 669 were needed to supply each man. There was only one overcoat for general use at each station. These were, to quote “.. old, battered, not weatherproof, and are supposed to be used in turn by men who go on watching duty. They are not fit to put on a dog.” Whilst the union’s demand for coats within a month seemed rather abrupt, in fact “Our men have been demanding coats without success for 15 years.”
At first they only refused to perform non-emergency outdoor duties without coats, but when some men were suspended, a general strike was called. That is when the prime minister stepped in. It seems ridiculous that with coats available for use, an 8-hour strike had to occur before this was resolved. There’s nothing new under the sun, hmm?