Wool Processing

Vale Mick O’Shea, shearer and union leader

Sheep Central, March 12, 2024

Mick O’Shea on the job in a shearing shed. Image – AWU.

THE Australian Workers’ Union has announced the passing of one of its most respected stalwarts from the shearing industry — Michael Joseph O’Shea, affectionately known as Mick O’Shea.

The AWU said Mick passed on February 29, 2024, and said one of his significant contributions to AWU history was during the wide comb dispute in the 1980s while he served as the assistant secretary.

The AWU opposed the introduction of wide shearing combs and alteration of the Federal Pastoral Industry Award to allow the use of shearing equipment that used combs wider than 2.5 inches. The dispute grew into a 10-week national strike by shearers in 1983 that was resolved an Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission decision to allow the use of the wide combs.

Mick was born on October 22, 1933, and he was a stalwart member of the AWU for an incredible 75 years, leaving an indelible mark on the labour movement and the communities he served, the union said.

He became a shearer in Coonamble at the age of 15 after the death of his father forced him from school to the shearing sheds to provide for his mother Lilian and sisters Noreen and Patricia and little brother Brian.

The AWU said Mick was a proud shearer who embodied the hardworking spirit of the Australian country worker as he travelled across New South Wales, shearing sheep and building a reputation for dedication and skill.

Mick joined the union 1947 at the age of 16, and he dedicated his life to the union, becoming an organiser from 1974 to 1993 and later serving as the AWU NSW branch secretary from 1993 to 1996.

His commitment to the cause was unwavering, and he played a key role in protecting and enhancing the strength of the union across the Central West, leaving a legacy that will be remembered for generations, the AWU said.

The union said Mick’s impact on the labour movement extended beyond his official roles, as he actively participated in supporting quality Labor candidates and played a pivotal role in the formation of Country Labor in Dubbo.

Mick’s dedication to improving the lives of working people was a life’s passion. His family remembers the countless days he spent travelling across the state, resolving disputes, and tirelessly working to support families and communities from Broken Hill to Cobar, from Mudgee to Parkes.

The AWU said Mick’s ability to resolve conflicts with humour and compassion became legendary, with his style of talking through issues and not inflaming situations.

After retiring in 1996, Mick continued his commitment to service, volunteering at St. Vincent de Paul and the Salvation Army, driven by his deep faith and dedication to helping others.

Mick O’Shea’s funeral will be held at St Brigid’s, 198 Brisbane St, Dubbo, at 10.30am, Wednesday the 13th of March.

Source – AWU.


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