nfortunately, it took the ravages of war to bring an end to the depression of 1913-1915. Many unemployed workers enlisted in the army and others found work in the war-fuelled economy. By 1916, many companies were reporting labour shortages. This turnaround from the high unemployment of the depression greatly improved workers' bargaining power. In these circumstances, working Canadians received wages higher than at any time before in their history. Living standards also appeared to be improving. At the same time, employers complained full employment meant that workers were now quick to leave one company for another if they were dissatisfied with their working conditions.

As the war continued into 1916, employers introduced changes to the workplace that increasingly angered many workers. The mass production of munitions was accompanied by an ever-increasing adoption of assembly-line production. "Speed ups" on the line and other "efficiency" measures outraged workers, who perceived these changes as a loss of control over their work. Craft and skilled workers, for example, feared the dilution of their traditional crafts. This fear intensified as less skilled workers, especially women, were assigned machine operators' jobs. On the other hand, for at least some women, the war meant jobs and wages from which they had traditionally been excluded.

Events away from work, however, irritated workers as much as those on the job site. The cost-of-living rose steeply after 1916, wiping out most of any wage increases as quickly as they occurred. At the same time, many workers believed that corporate profits were increasing dramatically, and they called for the conscription of profits — not just the conscription of men to the army. Conscription itself proved to be a controversial issue for many working Canadians. The majority of workers supported the war, or were at least resigned to it continuing, but compulsory service did not share the same popularity among many workers. In Quebec, opposition to conscription proved especially intense.

Direct government intervention into the realm of labour relations was an even greater irritant to the labour movement. In 1916, the Industrial Disputes Act was extended to include all munitions plants. This legislation, first introduced in 1907, provided for government-initiated arbitration between employers and workers. Labour's experience with the legislation, however, proved unfavourable. Workers were convinced that governments consistently and unfairly sided with employers in disputes. This image was reinforced by another government decision that censored reporting on labour conflicts. Labour increasingly felt besieged by governments and employers as the war advanced into its final years.

In the United States and Britain, where similar problems arose, governments made at least some effort to accommodate labour concerns. However, in Canada, the federal government proved reluctant to build co-operation with even the more conservative craft unions leaders. Consequently, tension between the government and labour intensified throughout the war. In the last months of the war in 1918 these relations reached a new low when government legislation banned several progressive organizations and their newspapers.

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