SUN Growing Pains
SUN's first few years were almost unprecedented in terms of success, the honeymoon
came to an end in 1978 when the Hall arbitration awarded registered nurses
(RNs) an insufficient wage differential from certified nursing assistants (CNAs).
a key figure in SUN's inception and then-CEO, was asked to resign at the 1982
annual meeting due to a resolution passed that SUN would "endeavour to employ" nurses
in senior positions wherever possible. This again created dissatisfaction
amongst some union members. Shalansky was not a nurse, but had helped
to create SUN and had a strong backing in the membership.
overshadowed by these events were other important steps taken in regard to
education of union members. One key decision made at a SUN annual meeting was
in 1978 when member education was recognized as a "cornerstone of union activities," essential
not only for ensuring "a steady supply of potential leaders for both local
and provincial levels," but also to enable a larger number of union members
to be active and knowledgeable It was officially acknowledged that more nurses
needed to be educated in the fields of communications, labour relations, bargaining
and negotiations. (SUN 25 year pamphlet). In 1980, SUN hired Larry LeMoal,
who had extensive labour relations experience, and assigned him to develop
SUN's formal education program.
SUN held seminars in various
locations across the province and held labour schools where members could
learn these skills. Virginia Kutzan, education
committee chairperson, remembers the success of the first labour school:
That first school
was so successful that the collective bargaining class ended up having
a strike...They had been role playing and had got carried away. It was amazing! The union negotiating committee picketed
our wind-up banquet the night before the school closed. The management
committee and some members from other classes crossed the picket line, but
many didn't. The instructors, president and CEO wouldn't cross, but
waited for the problem to be resolved. The cook waited to serve the
food and it got cold and some people were angry because the banquet was spoiled,
but the union team just kept on picketing (Slater-Smith, 80).
positive step during that time was that of the creation of the National Federation
of Nurses' Unions (NFNU). As early as 1975 the formation of such a body
had been discussed, and SUN was one of the first unions to promote the idea
(Slater-Smith, 89). In 1979, SUN was one of eight provincial unions
that met in Montreal to set objectives for the federation and begin the process
of drafting a constitution. The constitution was ratified in 1981 and the national
federation was born.
of 1978-1982 were a period of both growth and division for SUN. The union
experienced its first taste of discontent amongst the membership. At the
same time, it experienced growth in numbers and in prestige as it made a splash
on the national scene while founding the NFNU. SUN pulled through this
period and emerged a stronger organization.