Strike for Someone Else’s Pension?
Ever hear of a strike that was not about getting something better for the people on strike? Well, it happened in BC when the BCTF went on strike on March 19, 1971. That was the first province-wide strike in BC history.
So, what was the issue? Improvements for pensions for teachers who had retired with low pensions that never got increased after they retired.
In those days, pensions were not indexed to the cost of living. You started on the same pension you would get in 20 years or more. The BCTF worked to get better pensions and had some success. The Social Credit government of the day did improve pensions of those retiring, but not those already retired.
Most of these retired teachers were living in poverty. The BCTF campaigned to get better conditions for its former members, but without success. Finally, teachers were fed up with Premier WAC Bennett and called a province-wide strike.
WAC Bennett thought he could get back at teachers. He eliminated the provisions for automatic BCTF membership. The BCTF signed up members again—all but a small handful. And BCTF members got active in the next election. The NDP government elected in 1972 agreed to many improvements in pensions, including added contributions to pay for indexing.
The photograph on the landing page for this section is from the 1971 strike.