CPR Section House

CPR Section House

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Job Loss and Employment Security

1956 1958 1960 1961 1964

Labour in Canada was going through a relatively calm period during the 1950's and 60's . The exception in this time was in the national railroads of Canada. The change from steam to diesel led to massive job loss and the employees , especially engineers , firemen , trainmen and passenger train service staff bore the brunt of the change . But all unions were losing great numbers , including Dad's .

 Once all the unions in the CPR came together the country slowed to a virtual standstill .

The diesel locomotive , the mechanization of track maintenance , two-way radios , centralized traffic control and reduction of passenger service more than decimated/or threatened to decimate the employees of the CPR.

It was more than the system could take  and the employees flexed against the change in a series of one day strikes that rolled along the tracks across the country . The 'Wild Cat' Strikes of 1964 .It took a long time for the strikes to move from location to location .Trains were parked on sidings and the employees simply walked away for a day . Even when they returned the next day , the stoppages further along the line prevented the trains from moving . Nothing moved until the stretch between major cities was clear of strikes . Then traffic could travel only as far as the next stoppage .

The cost to the CPR brought them to the table to face a new concept never before discussed at any negotiation table in Canada before 1964. Employment Security and Job loss . These strikes set a precedent for the labour movement forever after .

An excellent article written by Leslie Ehrlich and Bob Russell can be found at www.historycooperative.org/journals -Labour Article -Employment Security and Job Loss: Lessons from Canada's National Railways

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