in Quebec History
20 August 2001
sur la grève de lamiante de 1949 / Documents
on the 1949 asbestos strike
Demands of the Union and the Response of the Companies
Demands of the Unions:
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:
- The elimination
of asbestos dust inside and out of the mines.
- A general wage
raise of 15¢ an hour; this would bring the minimum salary to $1.00
- An 18% raise
for workers paid on the basis of performance (either by piecework
or on a flat rate basis).
- An increase of
5¢ an hour for night work.
- Payment by the
companies of an amount equal to 3% of gross wages to the Social Security
Fund of the union.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- Double pay for
work done on Sunday and on holidays.
- Nine paid holidays.
- An improvement
in vacation benefits.
of the union for all cases of promotion, transfers and firings.
- The right for
employees to accept or refuse individually the rates of standards
- An inquiry by
the union of Sunday work.
- 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:
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.
management clause suggested by the Canadian Johns-Manville was as follows:
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.
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