Cranes to fall silent across Sydney
Tower cranes across Sydney will be brought to a standstill at 11am tomorrow (September 20) to mark the death of legendary building unionist Joe Owens.
Owens, a former Secretary of the Builders Labourers Federation NSW Branch, was one of the leaders of the Green Ban movement that during the 1970s stopped the development of iconic heritage sites and open spaces such as The Rocks, Centennial Park, Woolloomoolloo and Botanic Gardens.
A memorial service for Owens, 77, who died earlier this month in his northern NSW home of Nambucca Heads, will be held tomorrow (Sept 20) at Trades Hall from 10.30am.
Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union NSW State Secretary BrIan Parker said it was no exaggeration to say Owens had helped changed the face of the building industry in NSW and unionism.
He said Owens played an instrumental role in improving safety on building sites, particularly for the dogman who would be hauled high into the sky while standing on cranes in a practice known as “riding the hook”.
“Joe knew the dangers of this practice and campaigned in the 1970s as Sydney’s skyline grew ever upward to stop the practice,” he said.
“As one of the Green Ban leaders he also showed that building workers had a social conscience and were committed to keeping inner-city liveable for the working classes that then predominantly lived there.
“Today we could not imagine Sydney without historic Rocks precinct or the vast parklands of Centennial Park.”
Owens also played a leading role in campaigning for women’s, Indigenous and gay rights.
Parker said as a tribute to the years he spent “riding the hook” cranes across Sydney would stop work for one minute from 11am to remember his contribution to improving work conditions and human rights and saving Sydney’s heritage.