The Men of Kemira (Kevin Baker)

“The Men of Kemira” Sheet Music (pdf).
“The Men of Kemira” Karaoke (midi with lyrics).

Lyrics: Kevin Baker.
Tune: Kevin Baker.


In the spring of the year of 1982,
Unemployment and poverty were far from something new.
Seven years, we had watched while our young were sacrificed,
In bewilderment, caught in the economic vice.
But now, working folk from the steelworks and the mines
Heard from BHP that in these troubled times
Their jobs had to go for cost cutting was the key,
And it was all for the good of the company.

“Well, we won’t cop that!” said the ones inside the mine.
“You can’t cut and run and say we’re to blame this time.
We won’t take the sack while you you’re pockets line.
You’ve got a fight with the men of Kemira.”

At meetings of miners, forms of action were proposed,
And 31 of the fittest miners, they chose
For a sit-in strike deep within Kemira mine.
And those 31 started moving down the line.
At 4:00 in the morning, Mr. Pratt from BHP
Sacked them and told them that very soon they’d see
Where the strength lay for he was turning off the power.
They said, “Do what you will. You won’t see miners cower.”

“Well, we won’t cop that!” said the ones inside the mine.
“You can’t cut and run and say we’re to blame this time.
We won’t take the sack while you you’re pockets line.
You’ve got a fight with the men of Kemira.”

All through October, the workers rallied round.
With marches and meetings, new allies soon were found:
Steelworkers and wharfies and many unemployed
Who knew how it felt to find their jobs destroyed.
At the Wollongong showground, a meeting was arranged,
And here righteous anger began turning into rage.
A motion was passed that to Parliament they’d go,
So for ev’ry threatened worker, they could strike a blow.

“Well, we won’t cop that!” said the ones inside the mine.
“You can’t cut and run and say we’re to blame this time.
We won’t take the sack while you you’re pockets line.
You’ve got a fight with the men of Kemira.”

At the end of the month on trains and buses hired,
They headed for Canberra, their fuels of anger fired.
As they passed working suburbs, cheering spoke of mass support,
Which showed that working folk might be sold but can’t be bought.
As they massed in the capitol, their forces were aligned.
Newcastle, Sydney, and Canberra came behind.
Then to Parliament House, irresistibly they marched.
Their bellies filled with fire, and their hearts for justice parched.

“Well, we won’t cop that!” said the ones inside the mine.
“You can’t cut and run and say we’re to blame this time.
We won’t take the sack while you you’re pockets line.
You’ve got a fight with the men of Kemira.”

As they marched on King’s Hall, they felt their spirits rise.
Anger at betrayal, honest folk cannot disguise.
The barricade fell just like words used to deceive,
And the crowd at King’s Hall soon started chanting, “Heave!”
The door soon burst open and Parliament was breached,
And finally, our pompous politicians had been reached.
Fraser agreed to meet them, and Hawke and Hayden came.
The oppression of the working folk can never be the same.

“Well, we won’t cop that!” said the ones inside the mine.
“You can’t cut and run and say we’re to blame this time.
We won’t take the sack while you you’re pockets line.
You’ve got a fight with the men of Kemira.”

After 16 days, in a world that knew no sun,
The Tribunal turned on BHP and concessions had been won.
Not enough to save their jobs but enough to show the world
That a new fighting banner for the worker was unfurled.
So wherever you work, in fact’ry, shop, or mine,
In ships, on wharves, or in jobs of any kind,
Remember the 31. Think on their sacrifice.
And when it comes to be your turn, remember their advice.

“Well, we won’t cop that!” said the ones inside the mine.
“You can’t cut and run and say we’re to blame this time.
We won’t take the sack while you you’re pockets line.
You’ve got a fight with the men of Kemira.”


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