Printer Friendly

Canadian unions achieve strong gains in membership.

Canadian unions achieve strong gains in membership In sharp contrast to the situation in the United States, union membership has not declined in Canada. In fact, union membership has grown from 2.7 million in 1974 to 3.6 million in 1982, remaining at that level through 1984 and accounting for approximately 40 percent of the nonagricultural paid workforce. Much of the growth since the 1960's has occurred in the public sector, which is heavily unionized; however, unionism has been sustained or has grown across many elements of the private sector. While union membership has been maintained, organized workers have been challenged by the increased use of nonunion labor, especially in construction.

Canadian unionism has become more national than international in scope. That is, there appears to be a pronounced and steady trend away from International (that is, U.S.)-based unionism. The international proportion of total Canadian membership fell from 53.2 percent in 1975 to 39.4 percent in 1985. This reduced share did not result from a decline in international union membership. In fact, the number in 1985 was almost identical with that in 1974. The relative decline of international unions came from the addition of almost 1 million members in national (Canadian-only) unions. A large part of this growth was due to public sector unions which have grown since the 1960's to replace the blue-collar unions as the largest unions in Canada. In addition, some formerly international unions became national unions. The largest single change is the recent formation of the UAW-Canada. This move involves 136,000 members and would lower the proportion of international membership in 1985 from 39.4 percent to 35.7 percent.

The shift from international to national unions was a relatively limited phenomenon prior to the UAW-Canada. A more pronounced development was the increase in autonomy among the Canadian sections of international unions. At the time of this writing, the UAW-Canada is being closely observed to see whether it will set a pattern for other internationals. The president of the union, Robert White, who is in large part responsible for the formation of the new union, advocates merger with a number of other unions, such as the Steelworkers, to form a large metalworkers federation. The United Steelworkers of America, under its Canadian-born President Lynn Williams, is strongly resisting this development.

A final point concerning international unions relates to the Canadian Federation of Labour, an organization formed in 1982 of international unions in the building trades. These unions left the Canadian Labour Congress following a jurisdictional dispute with construction unions being certified by the Quebec provincial affiliate of the CLC. To date, there has not been a major move by the CLC to establish rival construction unions outside of Quebec.

Changes in legislation

The legal subsystem has been identified as an important factor in the growth of union membership in Canada. In the case of Canada, the responsibility for labor relations rests with the provinces. Fewer than 10 percent of workers are covered by Federal legislation. Prior to the period of time under consideration, three jurisdictions granted their public employees the right to organize and strike: Saskatchewan in 1944; Quebec in 1964; and the Federal government in 1967. In 1973, four more provinces passed similar legislation. In 1975, schoolteachers in Ontario were given the right to strike; in fact, full-time teachers were required to belong to one of the various teachers' associations.

Other legislation has also provided protection for unions, including the anti-strikebreaking law in Quebec and the anti-professional strikebreakers law in Ontario. Several jurisdictions have introduced provisions to provide for the arbitration of first agreements when there is an element of bad-faith bargaining (British Columbia, Manitoba, Quebec, and the Federal jurisdiction). British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec provide for the imposition of compulsory dues checkoff for union members and nonunion workers. A boost for unions was also given by the provision in all labor codes (except Nova Scotia) for certification without a representation vote if a majority of the bargaining unit are members of the union. This is in sharp contrast to the United States, where a certification election is required after the union application for certification.

Strong enforcement of labor legislation has also tended to favor unions. Two cases, in which unfair practices by companies resulted in large monetary settlements and changes in legislation, were seen as a warning to companies which might be tempted to violate the legislation. This again is in sharp contrast to the United States, where the National Labor Relations Board has been reluctant to apply remedial measures against employers who violate the requirement to bargain in good faith, thereby leading to fewer certifications and fewer negotiations of a first contract.
COPYRIGHT 1986 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:conference paper, International Relations Research Association
Author:Gunderson, Morley; Meltz, Noah M.
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Apr 1, 1986
Previous Article:Environmental factors in labor-management relationships.
Next Article:Distribution of consumption examined using aggregate expenditure shares.

Related Articles
First Industrial Relations Congress of the Americas.
Union membership statistics in 12 countries.
IABC numbers good in tough year.
1995 will be make or break for associations.
Vision Statement.
Serving members when they need us most: IABC continued to gain financial and membership strength, putting the association in good stead to weather...

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters