1978 INCO strike

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1978 INCO strike
Date 15 September 1978 - 7 June 1979
Location Sudbury area, Ontario, Canada
Caused by Attempted pay cut and layoff by management
Methods Strike, picket lines
Resulted in Victory for workers, new contract signed
Parties to the civil conflict
Lead figures
Dave Patterson[1]
11,600 workers[2]

The INCO strike of 1978 (locally referred to as the Sudbury Strike of 1978) was a strike by workers at INCO's operations in Sudbury, Ontario, which lasted from 15 September 1978 until 7 June 1979. It was the longest strike in INCO or Sudbury history until the strike of 2009-10, and at the time broke the record for the longest strike in Canada.[3] It has been noted as one of the most important labour disputes in Canadian history.[4]


The conflict was caused by proposed layoffs and cuts to pay and benefits by INCO management, with low nickel prices as a justification.[5][6]

Around 11,600 workers were involved in the strike, which affected the wages sustaining 43,000 people, or about 26% of the population of metropolitan Sudbury.[2] By the end of the strike, the company had been starved of over twenty-two million hours of labour, smashing records for the longest strike in both Canadian and INCO history.[1]

Community support for the union was strong, with local politicians such as future mayor and then-Member of Parliament John Rodriguez as well as other New Democrats vocally supporting the strikers.[7] A major role was played by women's support committees, which had also existed during the 1958 strike.[8]


Concessions won as a result of the strike included INCO's "thirty-and-out" policy, whereby workers with thirty years at the company could retire with a full pension, regardless of age.[6] As well, most miners received a dollar an hour wage increase.[1]

A study on alcohol consumption showed that over 35% of strikers and over 40% of their wives reportedly stopped drinking alcohol or drank dramatically less during the course of the strike, while a small minority drank much more, hypothesized as being stress-induced. Overall, alcohol sales declined by 10% during the strike as compared to the previous winter, likely due to economic reasons.[2]

This effect was mirrored in the rest of the local economy, which was catastrophically affected. This would later play a critical role in spurring new economic development efforts in the city into the 1980s and 1990s; when a longer strike hit the same operations, now owned by Vale, in 2009, the action had a much more modest effect on the city's economy than the 1978 strike, with the local rate of unemployment declining slightly during the strike.[9]


  1. ^ a b c Mulligan, Carol (9 January 2010). "ACCENT: Remembering 1978-79". The Sudbury Star. Retrieved 8 May 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c Giesbrecht, Norman; Markle, Glen; Macdonald, Scott (March 1982). "The 1978-79 INCO Workers' Strike in the Sudbury Basin and Its Impact on Alcohol Consumption and Drinking Patterns". Journal of Public Health Policy. Palgrave Macmillan. 3 (1): 22–38. doi:10.2307/3342064. 
  3. ^ Owram, Kristine (6 April 2010). "Vale Inco strike longest in company history". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. Retrieved 6 May 2016. 
  4. ^ Steven, Peter (December 1981). "Interview with Sudbury Strike filmmakers". Jump Cut. ISSN 0146-5546. OCLC 613432664. Retrieved 6 May 2016. 
  5. ^ "Canada's biggest strikes". CanadianManufacturing.com. Annex Business Media. 10 November 2010. Retrieved 6 May 2016. 
  6. ^ a b Ulrichsen, Heidi (15 December 2009). "Passing on lessons from the 1978-79 Inco strike". Sudbury.com. Laurentian Publishing. Retrieved 6 May 2016. 
  7. ^ "Inco uses helicopters in Sudbury as battle over pickets continues". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. 19 September 1978. p. 8. 
  8. ^ Iacovetta, Franca (Fall 2003). "Brothers and Sisters: Gender and the Labour Movement, a Feminist Labour Studies Conference at the Workers Arts and Heritage Centre, Hamilton, May 2002". Labour/Le Travail. Canadian Committee on Labour History. 52: 364–367. doi:10.2307/25149438. 
  9. ^ Adam Radwanski, "Why Sudbury is an unlikely magnet for global education". The Globe and Mail, August 20, 2010.