A story of men in dispute.
In late May, 1978, 142 carpenters and labourers on the Mangere Bridge construction site in Auckland were sacked over a redundancy dispute. The bridge workers declared the job 'black' and began to picket the site. The company retaliated by refusing to negotiate. A stalemate ensued, which was to become the longest industrial dispute in New Zealand history: two and a half years. The film looks at the events that took place during that time. it shows how a diverse group of people were thrown together and how the dispute affected their lives. As well, it is an inside view of trade unionism called into action.
Initially there was determination. Men were co-operating, taking on roles they had never had to deal with before. As the months wore on however, the workers entered a struggle with employers and government, financial worries, frustrations, disillusionsment and group internal wrangles. But who was to blame?
Gradually their number dwindled to a hard core group of sixteen who lasted the length of the dispute. The price the workers paid for the two-and-a-half year struggle was high. Living under the shadow of the dispute became their life-style. However, they do have satisfaction in knowing that other employers 'took note' of Mangere Bridge and that construction workers all over the country benefited from their perserverance. In many ways the film is more a drama than a documentary and is reminiscent in various parts of a stage play. It is narrated by Zac Wallace, chairman of the disputes committee, and one of the few men that lasted the distance. He played the lead in feature film UTU.
Above all, The Bridge is an account of New Zealand working class life in the seventies, a portrait of the dynamics of an industrial dispute and of working people living through a crisis.