Union Centrals, QuébecQuébec has 4 groups of labour unions: the CONFEDERATION OF NATIONAL TRADE UNIONS (Confédération des syndicats nationaux, CNTU), founded in 1921 as the Canadian Catholic Federation of Labour; the Québec Federation of Labour (QFL), which includes international unions and national affiliates of the CANADIAN LABOUR CONGRESS; the Québec Teachers' Corporation (QTC); and the Confederation of Democratic Unions (CDU), formed in a June 1972 break away from the CNTU.
The most important association in Québec is the QFL, the CLC's Québec wing, with over 400 000 members in 1996. In the past, its member unions belonged mostly to international unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO and headquartered in the US, but since the 1980s they have been mostly linked to Canadian unions such as the CANADIAN UNION OF PUBLIC EMPLOYEES or the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. The QFL provides union information and education, but its main task is to represent unions affiliated with the CLC to the Québec government and its administrative bodies.
The QFL was the result of the 1957 merger of the Provincial Federation of Labour of Québec (PFLQ) and the Federation of Industrial Trade Unions of Québec (FITQ). This merger followed the 1955 example of the union between the American giants, the AFL and the CIO, and of their Canadian counterparts, the TRADES AND LABOR CONGRESS and the Canadian Congress of Labour, into the CLC. The orientation of the new QFL was more strongly influenced by the INDUSTRIAL UNIONS of the FITQ than by the CRAFT UNIONS of the PFLQ. The federation kept its distance from the DUPLESSIS government, supported the NDP and took some militant stands (eg, the 1957 MURDOCHVILLE STRIKE).
The QFL changed significantly in 1964-65, when Louis LABERGE became president and the position of permanent secretary-general was created. Threatened by the CNTU (in both membership and influence), the QFL sought greater independence from the CLC and toughened its criticism of the capitalist system and of governmental action, publishing such manifestos as L'État, rouage de notre exploitation (1971) and Le combat inévitable (1973). It participated in major strikes, including that at LA PRESSE in 1971, the United Aircraft strike and the COMMON FRONT strikes.
Leaning gradually towards the independentist cause, it supported the PARTI QUÉBÉCOIS in provincial elections (except 1985) and suggested to its members that they vote for the political independence of Québec in the Referendums of 1980 and 1995. In the years since the economic recession of the early 1980s, the militancy of its members weakened and its social critique waned. The federation is tempted by the policy of "conflicting consultation" with management to achieve greater efficiency and competitiveness. It is especially proud of the originality of its Fonds de solidarité, which invested in firms to create and maintain jobs.