British Columbia Woodworkers' Strike

British Columbia Woodworkers' Strike, 15 May - 20 June 1946, the first strike of BC District 1 of the International Woodworkers of America (IWA) after coast-wide bargaining rights were won in 1943. It initiated a nationwide postwar strike wave of Canadian Congress of Labour (CCL) affiliates aimed at readjusting wages to wartime inflation and at consolidating the recent attainment of legislative union recognition by the signing of full union security agreements.

Twenty-seven thousand workers in both the coast and interior regions, led by district president Harold Pritchett, struck when demands for a 25-cent hourly increase, a 40-hour week, union shop and mandatory dues check-off were refused by Stuart Research Service, the bargaining agent for 145 coast operators. The strike, coming prior to compulsory conciliation proceedings under the still operable wartime labour regulations, was technically illegal.

The federal government intervened with the appointment of BC Chief Justice Gordon Sloan as an industrial disputes inquiry commissioner. His recommendation for a coastal settlement of 15 cents, the statutory 44-hour week and a voluntary revocable check-off was rejected by the IWA but accepted by the operators with the backing of the Coalition provincial government of John Hart.

The IWA responded with a 3000-strong trek to Victoria, the culmination of the 37-day strike. Sloan's continued mediation efforts resulted on June 12 in a modified offer by the coast operators of a 40-hour week for logging camps during the last half of the contract following 48 in the first half.

With the marketing of the Okanagan fruit crop endangered by the shutdown of box factories, the federal government, on June 18, appointed Gordon Bell controller of interior operations engaged in box production and ordered all affected employees back to work with a settlement to be mediated by Sloan. The forced end to the interior strike resulted in quick acceptance of Sloan's modified terms by the coast locals and a return to work on June 20.

The greatest gains were won by the interior workers. Their mediated settlement provided a first industry-wide contract, reduced the work week from 54 to 44 hours, increased wages 10 cents and awarded the coast check-off clause. Although the IWA failed to win union security, the strike consolidated its position in the industry by attracting 8000 - 10 000 new members to its ranks. The 15-cent increase served other CCL unions as an important standard with which to enter their postwar wage negotiations.