The success of the labour movement in the 1980s was mixed. Some unions, particularly in the public sector, saw large increases in their numbers, while others, like the United Steel Workers, faced serious decreases. While most unions found bargaining difficult because of the depressed economy, they continued to have more success than most of their American counterparts.

John Fryer, President of the National Union of Provincial Government Employees (NUPGE)

"If provincial governments feel that they are under financial constraints, because their own provincial economy is in trouble and their deficits are up, then our opportunities on behalf of our members to bargain living wages, and improve working conditions and make a pitch for new programs is very very difficult."

Gerard Docquier, Canadian National Director of the United Steel Workers of America (USWA)

"We are going through very serious de-industrialization of the country, and are therefore losing numbers by the thousands... . I would say we are losing over 500 members a month through direct job losses that will never come back."

Jeff Rose, President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

"We have grown in the last three years alone by 40,000 net. This is an enormous net jump ...

On the whole ... faced with concession bargaining, Canadian unions have been far firmer, and happily more successful than US unions, in resisting efforts by employers in both the private sector and public sector to fight the recession on the backs of their own workers."

Excerpts from: Canadian Union Movement in the 1980s: Perspectives from Union Leaders, Pradeep Kuman and Denis Ryan, eds. (Queens: Industrial Relations Centre, 1988).

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