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Saskatoon Transit union job action the latest in city’s history of labour disputes

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WATCH: A look at some of Saskatoon’s most impactful labour disputes through history. Ryan Kessler reports. – Nov 21, 2016

The contract dispute between Saskatoon Transit workers and city administration is one of many examples of Saskatoon’s long history with labour.

The first strike in city history came in 1906 when men laying sewers demanded a raise from $2 to $2.50 per day, according to Don Kerr and Stan Hanson, authors of Saskatoon: The First Half-Century.

The workers never got their raise, but they did receive better shovels and safer working conditions.

READ MORE: Saskatoon Transit job action: 5 things you need to know

In 1909, men employed by private contractors cited dangerous and unsanitary conditions while digging sewers. Unskilled labourers wanted a raise from 15 cents per hour, according to Kerr and Hanson.

The mayor of Saskatoon called a public meeting in 1918 to address a postal strike. It resulted in a telegram addressed to Prime Minister Robert Borden, expressing sympathy for the post office employees, according to the City of Saskatoon’s archives.

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One year later, some civic and other unions from Saskatoon supported organizers of the Winnipeg General Strike. City council members and a delegation of union representatives were sent to Winnipeg and reported back, records show.

The picket lines that emerged in 1994 are perhaps the most well-known in Saskatoon’s history. Many civic services like golf courses and swimming pools were affected by a series of lockouts and strikes.

Garbage piled up at the gates of Saskatoon’s Spadina Sanitary Landfill site.

READ MORE: Canada Post reaches tentative two-year deal with union

Multiple locals of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 615 and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers were involved, among others.

“It’s a strategy by the unions. It’s a strategy by the unions to bring more pressure on us,” then Mayor Henry Dayday said of picket lines.

The 1994 dispute lasted nearly 10 weeks before 2,300 workers got an agreement.

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