Wildcat Strikes Sweep Across BC
Despite a sell-out deal signed between the Liberal government and the leaders of the BC Federation of Labour and Hospital Employees Union (HEU) which derailed a General Strike, several wildcat strikes took place on May 3. The deal will still mean 15% percent wage cuts, 600 layoffs, and a longer work week for health care workers, along with continued privatization.
Solidarity wildcat strikes have swept across this province in reponse to an attempt by the government to legislate an end to a legal province-wide health care worker strike against pay cuts and layoffs.
May 4 –
– Eight high school students in Prince Rupert walked out of a class and marched to City Hall and then to the hospital in solidarity with health care workers.
– At least two HEU members maintained a protest picket at the Burnaby headquarters of the union, but allowed workers inside so that strike pay could be issued.
May 3 –
– Royal Jubilee Hospital, Victoria General Hospital, Queen Alexandra Centre for Children’s Health, Glengarry Hospital, Victoria City Hall, garbage collection, 6am ferry sailing shut down and 7am delayed at Swartz Bay by secondary pickets, early morning busses prevented from going out by secondary pickets (service did not resume untill about 1:30pm, and then only at 65% percent), some schools picketed (including Victoria High, Reynolds Secondary, and Eagle View Elementary, with about 30% percent of students staying home), and pickets around the Hospital Employees Union office and the Ministry of Health.
– Pickets at Stelly’s Secondary School in central Saanich.
– St. Joseph’s Hospital in Comox.
– Surrey Memorial Hospital.
– St. Pauls Hospital and Vancouver General Hospital.
– Pickets at Burnaby Hospital Employees Union office.
– A small group of hospital workers set up pickets at a Langley hospital to protest the deal between the government and their union.
– 100 hospital workers on Saltspring Island maintained picket lines at the local hospital and seniors’ centre. Pickets at Long Harbour ferry terminal delayed 3:30pm sailing.
– Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, busses, garbage service, Naniamo Secondary School and other schools, school board office workers, school bus drivers (about a third of the district’s school busses didn’t run), building inspectors and planners, Departure Bay and Duke Point ferry workers
– Kelowna hospital workers tore up their picket signs and threw them at Ken Robinson, who sits on the local Hospital Employees Union executive. Pickets stayed up in defiance of the union’s back-to-work order. Some students disobeyed their parents and refused to go to school. About 27% percent of students didn’t show up for classes.
– One third of Kamloops students didn’t show up to classes.
– 3,000 Vernon students stayed home.
– Quesnel schools, mills, provincial government offices, city services, hospitals, school busses, grocery stores and liquor store. About 1,000 people demonstrated at the Quesnel Hospital in solidarity with the health care workers.
May 2 –
– Workers from all seven unions covering BC Rail walked out in support of the striking health care workers, shutting down all provincial rail service.
May 1 –
– Nurses wildcat strikes in Richmond and several hospitals on Vancouver Island.
– Striking health care workers picketed Norske Canada Pulp Mill in Campbell River. About half the workers walked out in a solidarity wildcat strike.
– Wildcat strike at Northwood Pulp and Paper Mill in Prince George.
– Juan de Fuca library in Greater Victoria area, and the Hartland landfill was shut down early in morning but opened later in the day.
– 5,000 to 10,000 workers marched through the streets of downtown Vancouver in the early afternoon as part of a May Day demonstration called by the BC Federation of Labour. A small anarchist contingent took part, some wearing masks and shields and flying black and black-and-red flags, chanting “General Strike!”
– At 4pm about 60 people took part in an unpermitted May Day march along Commercial Drive in Vancouver, chanting “We can’t wait untill the next election. General Strike! Insurrection!” and “No more pigs in our communities! Off the pigs/Burn ’em down!” and disrupting traffic at two major intersections.
April 30 –
– Vancouver City Hall, and the Manitoba Works Yard (garbage collection and city maintenance).
– First Tsawassen ferry sailing shut down.
– Victoria City Hall, Interurban campus of Camosun College, various schools, all seven Greater Victoria area libraries, transit yard cross-picketed by HEU members and supported by bus driver wildcat (shutting down bus service untill 10:15am), road workers, cleaners at schools and public buildings, some recrreation centres, and the city landfill.
– Schools in Saanich and Sooke.
– Municipal halls in Saanich, North Saanich, Oak Bay, Esquimalt, Colwood, and Sidney.
– Cowichan Valley school maintenance workers.
– Kelowna City Hall, Kelowna International Airport, the local land-fill, public works yard and the water treatment plant was down to essential service levels.
– 1,400 BC Hydro workers walked out, but the union was providing essential services. BC Hydro workers picketed on Main Street in Lilloet.
– Nurses wildcat strikes in Nanaimo, Comox, Port Alberni, Campbell River, Kelowna and Richmond.
– Schools in the Gulf Islands, Mid-Island and Kamloops school districts.
– Municipal workers in a number of Vancouver Island locations as well as Prince George (garbage collection, City Hall, pools/recreation centres, pulp mill workers), Quesnel, Dawson Creek, Pitt Meadows and Richmond.
– Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) workers in Nelson, Trail and Castlegar staged marches and demonstrations.
– CUPE workers in Dawson Creek walked out, shutting down a public pool and two ice arenas. Public works and parks staff also went on wildcat strike.
– Municipal workers wildcat strike in Delta, including city hall, recreation centres and swimming pools.
– City workers walked out in Burnaby, including city hall and other facilities.
– Bus maintenence workers walked out in Kamloops.
– Wildcat strike at the Swartz Bay BC Ferries terminal. BC Ferries workers refused to cross a secondary picket line and vocally supported the picketers. One sailing was shut down and another was delayed.
– Forestry/woodworkers in Duncan.
– Two saw mills and two CUPE locals in Quesnel.
April 29 –
– Workers from the Office and Professional Workers Local 378 walked out.
– 800 BC Hydro workers at the W.A.C. Bennet, Revelstoke and Peace Canyon dams walked out. BC Hydro applied for injunctions against wildcat pickets.
– Hospital workers in Kelowna, Pentincton and Vernon went on wildcat strike, including essential services, and organized independently from the unions.
Victory to the Health Care Workers!
Let’s Start a Wildcat General Strike!
by the May Day Anarchist Organizing Group – Vancouver
April 29, 2004
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
43,000 health care workers across the province defied “back-to-work” legislation Saturday, April 29th, keeping picket lines up at hospitals and care homes in the fourth day of an all-out strike. They were joined by about 100 BC Hydro workers who spontaneously walked off the job in a solidarity wildcat strike at three dams, without the authorization of their union. CUPE union workers may walk out tomorrow, or in the next few days.
The Liberal government’s Bill 37 is intended to enforce wage cuts, increase the work week by 1.5 hours, and further privatize services. The cuts amount to $200 million dollars and another 2,500 layoffs are on the horizon.
In the January 2004 issue of “Business in Vancouver”, a survey of senior business executives listed “cutting health care costs” as what they considered should be the BC Liberal government’s top priority. The Liberals have been doing their best to please their business partners.
Since they came to power, more than 6,000 health care workers have been fired, hospitals have been closed, and services have been contracted out to multinational corporations.
But the workers have been fighting back. The current province-wide strike by the workers of the BC Hospital Employees Union (HEU) has been long-awaited, and is the culmination of a series of wildcat strikes, occupations and direct actions that workers have initiated themselves, often against the proposals of the HEU leadership executive. HEU covers food service workers, licensed practical nurses, cleaners and clerical workers. 85% percent are women and 31% percent are immigrants.
On October 8, 2002, HEU workers in Vancouver occupied the cafeteria at the Children and Women’s Hospital to fight privatization. Later in the week, workers confronted the privatization of food services by the French Sodexho corporation in an occupation at the Richmond Hospital. That same year, HEU workers called for a General Strike at their annual convention, and the BC Federation of Labour (BCFED) also voted to include the General Strike In their “action plan.”
On January 28 of 2003, HEU workers took part in a wildcat strike at several Vancouver hospitals, set up hard picket lines in the morning and marched through the streets of downtown later in the day. This was followed by an occupation of the Health Authority office at the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria the next day.
The workers began to show even more independent initiative when they rejected a deal the union executive wanted to sign with health employers which would have cut wages and benefits, and lowered working conditions in exchange for an end to the current wave of layoffs. The workers clearly wanted to fight rather than retreat.
They took action again in February of 2004, launching wildcat strikes in Victoria on the 24th and Nanaimo the next day. On April 1st, workers, students and unemployed people set up soft picket lines at both of Victoria’s hospitals, in a show of solidarity with the HEU worker’s upcoming provincial strike.
Many of the workers on the picket lines are openly criticizing their own union and its hesitance to take substantial action. Why did the union wait until now to strike, after more than 6,000 members had already been fired? Why did the union try to stall and prevent the strike for the past few weeks, constantly negotiating with health authorities despite an overwhelming strike vote by the workers? Because the jobs of the union executives are not on the line. Their job is, in fact, to manage and deflect the struggle of the workers, leading to demoralization and defeat. We should never forget about the union leaders’ betrayal of workers and community groups during the Solidarity movement in 1983, or the more recent negotiated sellout of the ferry workers’ struggle in December of 2003.
So now is a crucial time for workers to spread a rebellious spirit and continue to form worker action groups that are independent of the union bureaucracy. If the union bosses issue a back-to-work order, it should be disobeyed as well.
And now is the time for the rest of us to form action groups and open up new fronts in this class struggle. Whether we are immigrants, working and unemployed people fighting to get by in the cities, or indigenous people living on the land, our enemies are the same – multinational corporations, the Liberal government, and any self-proclaimed leader who tries to exploit our struggle to get a seat at the table with the bosses. Any one of us can take control of our lives and contribute to disrupting the economy. You can’t trust anyone who claims to represent you. Solidarity is our weapon.
The upcoming May Day events are a perfect chance for us to unify our forces and take the struggle to the streets.
– The Vancouver May Day Anarchist Organizing Group is a small group of anarchists who know and trust each other and came together to organize an anarchist contingent for the May Day Labour March and an anti-capitalist May Day parade on Commercial Drive. We’ve been postering and leafleting extensively, and talking with people on the street and on the health care workers’ picket lines to build the two events.
For the Labour March we’ll meet at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza, in the southwest corner (at the corner of Georgia and Hamilton Streets) – May 1st, 11:00am, Vancouver. Bring black flags, drums, pots and pans and noise-makers!!!
Followed by the May Day Parade and Anarchist May Day Action, 4:00pm at Grandview Park on Commercial Drive, with free food. Bring black flags, drums, pots and pans and noise-makers!!!
Revolutionary May Day – Vancouver 2004:
– Call-out for court solidarity with John Graham
The history of May Day is as much about the struggle against police and legal repression as it is about the fight for shorter working hours. John Graham is an indigenous man from the Yukon who is being framed by the FBI and is currently under house arrest in Vancouver. Come out to his extradition hearing. Don’t let the United States government extradite him.
Show up tomorrow, Friday, April 30th, at the Supreme Court (800 Hornby) at 9:30am in the morning.
Free John Graham: