1974: University Employees Union on strike
1974 saw the first strike in
the history of the University of Saskatchewan.
The University Employees’ Union was first certified in 1945 (taking
advantage of the new CCF government’s Trade Union Act) and chartered in 1956 as
Local 54 of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). It represented University support staff in both Saskatoon and
Regina. Prior to the 1970s, relations
between the Employees’ Union and the University administration appear to have
been good, with collective bargaining following “a pattern based on
compromise.” By 1973, in the context of
major University restructuring and rising inflation, the collective bargaining
atmosphere had become more antagonistic.
The union’s demands included “a significant increase in wages because of
high inflation and because a number of its classifications, which were filled
by women, were receiving wages below, or just slightly above, the provincial
In September 1974,
negotiations were at an impasse. A
study session was held on September 6 and on September 17-18 union members
voted 1237-361 in favour of a strike.
However, no strike date was immediately set; the union notified the
administration that it was prepared to continue negotiations. On September 25, union members voted to
reject the University’s latest offer and reaffirmed the strike vote. The strike began on September 26. The picketing was considered “quite
effective in disrupting normal operations”, so effective, in fact, that at the
request of the University the Court of Queen’s Bench issued an injunction
preventing picketing or “trespassing” on the University campus. In the meantime, conciliation talks were
continuing, and a tentative settlement was reached on October 8. The offer was ratified and staff returned to
work on October 11, ending a fifteen-day strike.
The strike led to a
reassessment of the Local’s status as a direct affiliate of the CLC. Many members felt strike support had been
inadequate and that it was time to affiliate to a parent union. The choice, after some debate, was the
Canadian Union of Public Employees. In
October 1975, the University of Saskatchewan Employees’ Union was reborn as
CUPE Local 1975.1
CUPE 1975 fonds, MG 110
G. Makahonuk fonds, MG 201
1974a,b: Photos of the strike. CUPE 1975 fonds, MG 110, Local 54 material, Box 10.
1974c: Circular letter re negotiations. CUPE 1975 fonds, Facts for picketers, MG 110, Local 54 material., Box 14.
1. Makahonuk, “In Union is Strength: The University of Saskatchewan Employees’ Union Strike,” Saskatchewan History 48(1): 30-43.