CM Archive
CM Archive Book Review line

Elaine Bernard.

Vancouver, New Star Books, c1982.
249pp, paper, $14.95 (cloth), $7.95. (paper).
ISBN 0-919573-02-9 (cloth), 0-919573-03-7 (paper).

Grades 11 and up.
Reviewed by John D. Crawford.

Volume 11 Number 3.
1983 May.

This is a history of the telephone workers of B.C. since the installation of the first telephone in that province over a hundred years ago. In particular, it is an account of how the Telecommunications Workers Union emerged from the welter of the past. Many of the features of this story are similar to the experiences of other unions. The initial struggle for recognition, the "good" years of both wars, when labour was in demand, and the lean years of recession when employers had the upper hand. There are several features in which characteristics unique to the telephone industry are apparent. These include the early employment of women as a large proportion of the workforce and the rapidity of technological change. The text brings out these two features in some detail, although confining them within a trade union context to a large extent.

The text is highly supportive of the union viewpoint, and this requires the reader to exercise care in distinguishing fact from opinion. The facts seem to point to an unusually bitter relationship between employers and their workers that persists to the present day. To some extent, this can be attributed to the nature of the industry, but there seems to be an undercurrent of perversity in the relationship for which there is no obvious explanation. My own superficial reaction is that the structure of the employee-employer situation is too complicated, with supervisors uncertain of their roles in the puzzle.

The book is well-illustrated with some particularly interesting photographs from the early years. There is a well-prepared index and a fifteen-page section of notes that provides excellent bibliographical information. This is a well-written book with much valuable detail that should be of value to students of industrial history or labour relations.

John D. Craw ford, Frank Hobbs E. S., Victoria, BC.
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