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1978 Inco strike

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1978 Inco strike
Date15 September 1978 - 7 June 1979
Caused byAttempted pay cut and layoff by management
MethodsStrike, picket lines
Resulted inVictory for workers, new contract signed
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]


The role of women in the community during the strike was profiled in the 1980 documentary film A Wives' Tale (Une histoire de femmes).[9]

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.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Mulligan, Carol (9 January 2010). "ACCENT: Remembering 1978-79". The Sudbury Star. Archived from the original on 2 June 2016. 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. 3 (1). Palgrave Macmillan: 22–38. doi:10.2307/3342064. JSTOR 3342064. PMID 7085867. S2CID 11201272.
  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. 52. Canadian Committee on Labour History: 364–367. doi:10.2307/25149438. JSTOR 25149438.
  9. ^ "Inco wives' tale makes compelling documentary". The Globe and Mail, November 29, 1980.
  10. ^ Adam Radwanski, "Why Sudbury is an unlikely magnet for global education". The Globe and Mail, August 20, 2010.