Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Strike at Essondale


Essondale was at the forefront of the government employees' movement in BC. Ever since 1919, when the first meeting of the Provincial Civil Service Association was held. In 1944, the BC Government Employees' Association was formed and Essondale 575 members. That was more than any other branch in the province including the government employees in Victoria!

Premier W.A.C. Bennett's government had an uneasy relationship with the Government Employees' Association. On March 13, 1959, members of the Association went out on strike. Including the staff at Essondale. It was a short strike, four hours long.

The issue was bargaining rights. The pickets went up at government buildings at 7 am. By 10:30 am, the B.C. Supreme Court had issued an injunction calling for an end to the strike and the picket lines went down.

However short it was, the strike had an effect on Essondale.

 Some of the psychologists asked to be allowed through the picket line (at Essondale). The nurses said: No dice. The patients will bear up quite well without them. The patients enjoyed themselves. The monotony was broken for one day.” 

Roy LaVigne, quoted in A Union Amongst Government Employees: A History of the B.C. Government Employees’ Union, 1919-1979 by Bruce McLean.

In 1969, the BC Government Employees' Association became the BC Government Employees' Union. Riverview - as Essondale was now known - employees are still members of the public sector unions represented by the BC Government Employees Union (BCGEU), the BC Nurses Union (BCNU), the Professional Employees Association (PEA) and the Union of Psychiatric Nurses of BC (UPN).

Remember I mentioned the newsletter at Essondale, The Leader? By 1960, it was no longer a little newsletter. It was a 28-page, twice monthly publication - almost a small town newspaper. The paper had an advisory board, editorial board, ward reporters, artists, typists and even a feature writer. 

In a typical issue, a reader would find a calendar of events, church services, reports from the wards, a movie schedule. They would also find jokes, news from Colony Farms, gardening tips, horoscopes, make-up tips and book reviews. Groups such as the English Club, Journalism Club, Drama Club and Reducing Club - which offered exercises and marching - published their news in The Leader.

Thanks to the PDF, Riverview, A Legacy of Care and Compassion for the above information.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

Karen Magill

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