Sticking with the union: Billy Bragg joins ABC staff on Sydney picket line
British singer-songwriter and activist Billy Bragg joined ABC staff on the picket line in Sydney on Wednesday afternoon, delighting them with an acoustic rendition of Woody Guthrie’s Union Maid.
Bragg, 65, is touring the country again playing multiple shows spanning his long career including a three-night run at the Enmore theatre in the inner city.
Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup
He is famously friends with the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, but it was former Labor politicians Peter Garrett, wearing a Midnight Oil cap, and Kristina Keneally who were among the sold-out audience on Monday night.
Bit of vintage #BillyBragg at the ABC Sydney stop work this afternoon. Sent through by Steven Turner. pic.twitter.com/ByetnhE6sv
— Hugh Riminton (@hughriminton) March 22, 2023
Staff from the national broadcaster say Bragg became aware of the strike when he went to the Ultimo headquarters on Tuesday for an interview on ABC Sydney Radio with Sarah Macdonald. He saw the posters all over the building and asked when he could come and support the workers.
Amazing to be with @CPSUnion members at the ABC taking industrial action and sending a message to ABC management…
And of course the one and only @billybragg pic.twitter.com/1ir403Kk1O
— Melissa Donnelly (@DonnellyMel) March 22, 2023
Members of the Community and Public Sector Union walked off the job for an hour at 7am and 3pm on Wednesday, briefly disrupting the broadcast of Radio National Breakfast.
The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, representing ABC journalists, called off their strike action at the 11th hour after reaching an in-principle agreement with ABC management over conditions.
Dressed in a red T-shirt with the words “Things go better with Woke” Bragg posed for photos with staff and talked about the importance of solidarity.
On strike with Billy Bragg at the ABC in Sydney. Union members are stronger together. Join your union today. @CPSUnion #DontDiscountABC pic.twitter.com/jrv5EElP4Z
— Catherine Zengerer (@Catherine_Zen) March 22, 2023
It’s not the first time he has shown solidarity with striking workers. After one of his shows in Wellington, New Zealand, last month, Bragg showed up to support a protest outside a strip club by 19 dancers who said they were fired after demanding improved pay and conditions.
“Bit of night time industry solidarity,” Bragg tweeted from the scene.
Related: From Billy Bragg to DJ Albo: what Anthony Albanese’s music taste says about him | Andrew Stafford
Bragg is not afraid of jumping into the political issues of the country he is visiting. While performing shows in Melbourne at the time of the anti-trans protests, he later tweeted in support of Daniel Andrews’ response to the Nazi salutes by group of men.
“This is how you respond when Neo-Nazis give Hitler salutes on your doorstep,” he said. “The Premier of Victoria raises the transgender flag over Parliament House in Melbourne, site of Saturday’s anti-trans demo.”
Many attending the concerts had waited for three years to see Bragg perform after the tours was delayed for three years due to Covid.