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Remembering John Fryer, “a titan in the labour movement” - BCGEU

BCGEU is saddened to hear of the sudden passing of John Fryer. Fryer served as BCGEU's general secretary from 1969-1983 and president of NUPGE (National Union of Public and General Employees) from 1980-1990.

Those who knew him characterize John Fryer as no-nonsense, gritty, brilliant and a larger than life personality. He will be best remembered for his role in securing collective bargaining rights for provincial government workers in 1972 under the first BC NDP government.

"I never had the chance to work directly with John Fryer, but he was a titan in the labour movement and a key figure in making the BCGEU what it is today-a dynamic, progressive voice for our members and all working people in BC," said Stephanie Smith, president of the BCGEU.

"John's legacy includes engineering the transition of the BC Government Employee's Association to the BCGEU-the official bargaining unit for direct government workers. Our union would literally not be what it is today without him. On behalf of the more than 80,000 members of the BCGEU my deepest condolences go to John's family and all those who knew and loved him."

Fryer was known for implementing some rather unusual strategies. For instance, perhaps his most memorable and amusing tactic is when he hired a Cessna airplane to fly over the B.C. Legislature towing a banner reading "Drop us a line, Mr. Black – BCGEU". This feat – which garnered front page national media coverage -- was to urge the cabinet minister for the public service, Wesley Black, to sit down with BCGEU to discuss bargaining rights.

The late John Shields, BCGEU's second president, said that "John Fryer transformed the B.C. Government Employees' Association from a staff society to the largest labour union in British Columbia… The footprints of John Fryer are the footprints of a pioneer."