To mark Labour Day, we're dipping into our archive and revisiting one of the most tumultuous periods in labour history: the 1980s.
It may have been the decade of Thriller, hair bands and Dynasty, but the '80s marked years of conflict on the labour scene. Unions flexed their muscles while employers held firm.
The issues were not always about money: issues like pay equity for women were also cresting, and workplaces were dealing with technological change.
For instance, the notorious beer strike that started in 1985 was sparked by technological change. NAPE, which represented workers at Labatt, wanted protections against what it called "significant job losses" that would happen in the transition from bottles to aluminum cans.
It's hard to think of an industrial sector that was not affected by a strike, lockout or labour disruption during the period: hospitals, transportation, the fishery, schools, food, manufacturing, and so on. The 1986 general strike, in which NAPE lined up against the government of Brian Peckford, brought many public services to a standstill.
Here are some stories from Here & Now's archives. [Tune in tonight for a special edition on labour strife in the '80s.]
An epic battle erupted in 1986, when much of the public service launched a strike against Peckford's PC government. This report is from Sept. 12, 1986, when a large number of picketers gathered outside Confederation Building. Fred Greening was the reporter for Here & Now.
In 1985, when workers at the Labatt bottling plant in St. John's went on strike, workers at two other breweries were automatically locked out. It was a tense time for unionized workers … and it was not a happy time for consumers, who had to make due with American imports like Old Milwaukee. Kathryn Wright filed this report for CBC.
Phone company strike
Pay equity was one of the key issues of a long-running strike in 1984 against Newfoundland Telephone, which paid its workers less than wages at other subsidiaries of parent Bell Canada Enterprises. Kathryn Wright filed this report on Sept. 27, 1984.
Strike at FPI
About 4,200 workers walked off the job in 1989 at Fishery Products International, at the time the biggest seafood processing company in Newfoundland and Labrador. Workers in nine different communities walked off the job, and said it was time for FPI — a former Crown corporation that had moved into profit — to bring up their wages. This Jan. 23, 1989 report was filed by Brian Dubreuil.