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1974: University Employees Union on strike

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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 minimum wage.”

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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

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Related Collections

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.

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