Recession and Amalgamation

The 1990s were a period of difficulty and upheaval. In 1991, a severe economic recession began. In 1990, Ontarians elected the province’s first NDP government, ushering in what many hoped would be a new, more progressive era.

A prolonged economic recession began. The unemployment rate reached a high of 11% by the middle of the decade. Manufacturing jobs disappeared as new technologies came online and NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, came into effect. By the end of the century, for example, Hamilton’s steel companies employed only 15,000 workers.

In 1991, as budget shortfalls piled up, the City of Hamilton cut 50 full-time jobs. In 1992, approximately 1,500 Local 5 and Local 167 members were temporarily laid off in an effort to force the unions to open their contracts and agree to concessions. But the unions never yielded. While non-union civic workers were forced to accept lengthy wage and benefit freezes throughout the ’90s and 2000s, CUPE members continued to enjoy annual increases.

Jan 3, 1992 - Local 5 & Local 6 Rally
Locals 5 and 167 both rallied against management’s performance excellence program, January 3, 1992. Courtesy of The Hamilton Spectator Collection, Local History & Archives Department, Hamilton Public Library.