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Documents in Quebec History


Last revised:
20 August 2001

Documents sur la grève de l’amiante de 1949 / Documents on the 1949 asbestos strike

The Initial Demands of the Union and the Response of the Companies

Claude Bélanger,
Department of History,
Marianopolis College.

The Demands of the Unions:

At the time of negotiations preceding the strike in the asbestos industry, the Fédération nationale des employés de l’industrie minière, representing the employees at the mines in Thetford Mines and in Asbestos, submitted a list of changes to the existing contracts with the mines. It was understood that the proposed changes would apply to the entire industry as the union was attempting to render uniform the contracts and working conditions at all of the asbestos mines in Quebec. The proposed changes were:

  1. The elimination of asbestos dust inside and out of the mines.
  2. A general wage raise of 15¢ an hour; this would bring the minimum salary to $1.00 an hour.
  3. An 18% raise for workers paid on the basis of performance (either by piecework or on a flat rate basis).
  4. An increase of 5¢ an hour for night work.
  5. Payment by the companies of an amount equal to 3% of gross wages to the Social Security Fund of the union.
  6. Compulsory payment of the union dues ($1.50 per month) by all employees whether members of the Union or not. This was a demand to apply the Rand formula.
  7. This formula is named after Supreme Court Justice Ivan Rand who was appointed in November of 1945 to arbitrate the Ford Motor strike of Windsor, Ontario. At the core of this important labor conflict was the issue of union security.
  8. In his arbitration decision, Justice Rand developed principles that came to be known as the Rand formula. Under it, employees at a plant remain free to join or not to join the union. However, as they inevitably benefit from the working conditions and the contract negotiated for all employees by the union, the formula requires that all employees pay union dues. As most people feel that if they pay the union dues they might as well exercise the rights of union members, they consequently usually join the union. Thus, the formula was and is seen very favourably by the unions as it assures them security.
  9. Double pay for work done on Sunday and on holidays.
  10. Nine paid holidays.
  11. An improvement in vacation benefits.
  12. Consultation of the union for all cases of promotion, transfers and firings.
  13. The right for employees to accept or refuse individually the rates of standards of production.
  14. An inquiry by the union of Sunday work.
  15. For the workers of Asbestos (the Canadian Johns-Manville Company) the contract was to be put into operation on January 1, 1949; this was one month before the current contract would expire.

The Response of the Companies:

The Canadian Johns-Manville Company requested that the union accept some amendments to the existing contract, especially as they pertained to rights of management and to standards of efficiency.

The management clause suggested by the Canadian Johns-Manville was as follows:

[my translation] The Company retains all the rights, powers and authority that are normally a function of management, except where it is specifically stipulated in the contract that a particular point has been conceded. This contract constitutes a full agreement between the parties and must be followed to the letter.

Regarding the demands of the employees, the companies agreed to a 5¢ an hour wage increase, two extra paid holidays and some improvements in the vacation package. All other union demands were rejected.

© 2001 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College