The Struggle Against Wage Controls: The Saint John Story, 1975–1976.
Contains Photos, Index
David Mardiros is a lawyer and anthropological consultant in Kars,
While it all seems like a very long time ago now, the Trudeau government’s draconian attempts to control inflation in the mid-1970s resulted in the most extensive restraints on the Canadian economy since the Second World War. Although Bill C-73 was touted as imposing both wage and price controls in an effort to steady the economy, this book discusses the response of one section of the labour movement to legislation that was extremely vague in the controls it imposed over price increases (and corporate profits) while exerting far-reaching controls over wages.
The legislation was far-reaching in its application, covering all public employees, including municipal workers, and all private sector employers with more than 500 workers. As the book points out, over half a million unionized workers were in the midst of contract negotiations when the Bill came into force—casting a pall on the collective bargaining process. Saint John, New Brunswick, was in the thick of it: many unions were in the midst of negotiating agreements to try and bring workers up to par with more prosperous areas of the country. This book is a record of how workers organized against the legislation and what they accomplished. October 14, 1976, became the largest day of protest ever organized by the labour movement in Canada. Response in Saint John was so high that it became one of four communities in the country completely shut down as a result of workers staying off the job.
Since it focuses on the response of organized labour in New Brunswick to the wage and price control measures, this book will be of greatest interest to those with an interest in organized labour and its history in Atlantic Canada. Nevertheless, because of the inclusion of a good introductory chapter by David Frank, the book provides a good general history of a period in which organized labour responded strongly to one-sided measures to control the economy and, in the process, helped galvanize itself for the struggles over restructuring it would face in the 1980s.