The Assault on Trade Union Freedoms: From Wage Controls to Social Contract


250 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-920059-15-5
DDC 331.8'0971





Reviewed by Steven R. Hewitt

Steven R. Hewitt teaches history at the University of Saskatchewan.


When the NDP government of Ontario passed its “social contract,”
thereby rolling back the rights of public-sector unions in Ontario, it
offered further confirmation of a new era of union- employer relations.
As the authors illustrate, however, the social contract was one of many
blows that unions, almost exclusively public ones, have taken in the
past 20 years. This very readable book is a historical and social
commentary on the changes taking place, as well as a prescription for
the future.

While interesting, the book is also at times frustrating. The title
uses the generic term “trade unions,” but the book deals almost
exclusively with public-sector unions. Why this is so is never
thoroughly explained. While analyzing the motivation of governments over
cutbacks, the book rarely focuses on unions, most of which come across
as faceless organizations. Criticism of unions in their dealings with
the federal government is rare. Finally, it is distressing to find a
rather obvious error in the second edition of a book. On page 129, the
author writes of the “defeat of the Davis government” in Ontario,
when in fact Frank Miller had succeeded Davis well before the election
in question.


Panitch, Leo, and Donald Swartz., “The Assault on Trade Union Freedoms: From Wage Controls to Social Contract,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 24, 2024,