Archives for May 1991

Who Makes the Decisions? Women’s Participation in Canadian Unions

The purpose of this report is to determine whether women are increasingly being involved in the decision-making process of Canadian unions. The scope of review of this report is restricted to public sector unions and one private sector union in the province of Ontario. A combination of methods were utilized in completing this study, including an overview of existing research, a review of statistical data, and an analysis of policy statements, convention resolutions and general union literature.

The results of this review indicate that labour organizations have paid significant and increasing attention to women’s issues over the past 15 to 20 years; union policies have encompassed aspects of women’s inequality within the union, in the workplace and in society. Many unions, particularly the central labour organizations, have adopted policies of internal affirmative action, they have increased the amount of education available to staff and union members on women’s issues, they have implemented policies providing child care services during union functions such as conventions and workshops, and they have provided regular coverage of women’s issues in membership publications.

While these progressive policies are a positive indication of the unions’ commitment to attaining women’s equality, they are not a guarantee of prolonged or significant increases in women’s participation in union decision-making activities. Labour organizations must be careful not to overestimate the effectiveness of their policies, and they must redouble their efforts to win the battle against discrimination within their hierarchies and structures. To this end, unions must ensure that their policies are fully implemented in practice. They must also continue to educate their staff and union members about the benefits of providing women with equal opportunities. The labour movement can only grow stronger through greater solidarity between its union sisters and brothers.

Download PDF: Who Makes the Decisions? Women’s Participation in Canadian Unions

“Organizing the Unorganized” Revisited

Concomitant with the expansion of the service sector as an increasingly large component of the Canadian economy, has been a growth in service related employment. In fact, 90% of new jobs since 1967 have been located in the service sector (Economic Council of Canada, 1990). Service sector employment, typified by nonstandard work forms, growing use of computerization and a pronounced segmentation between “good jobs and bad jobs” places a growing number of Canadian workers, many of whom are women, in an increasingly insecure financial and occupational position. Examination of the Canadian banking industry, a significant employer within the service sector, reveals that these general trends also apply specifically to the financial sector. In wake of the growing use of computerization, spurred on by competition, the employee relations climate in Canadian banks is characterized by employment restructuring emphasizing the use of part-time and temporary labour, comparatively poor average rates of compensation and extreme occupational segregation based on sex.

Despite circumstances which would seem to demand collective action, unionization in Canadian banks has met with limited success. While the organizational strategies of Canadian unions and such service sector features as the disparate location of tiny groups of employees, may provide a partial answer to this lack of success, the work of Lennon (1980) documents the effects of legislative inefficacy in dealing with a virtually unprecedented bank campaign against unionization. Indeed, examination of the case law subsequent to Lennon’s 1980 analysis demonstrates a continued inability (or unwillingness) across the labour relations boards of Ontario and Canada to deal consistently and effectively with the power imbalance created by the concerted campaign of the Canadian banks against the attempts of their employees to achieve collective representation.

The purpose of this paper is to examine the jurisprudence surrounding unionization attempts in the Canadian chartered banks (supplemented by decisions of the Ontario Labour Relations Board dealing with trust companies and credit unions) and to analyze the efficacy of legislation in dealing with the intransigence of the banking counter-campaign in order to identify possible areas for resolution of the barriers to collective representation for bank and other service sector workers. Prior to examination of the jurisprudence, the paper focuses on the nature of employment in the banking sector in order to provide a contextual framework for analysis of the efficacy of labour board decisions.

Download PDF: “Organizing the Unorganized” Revisited

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply. Learn more about the collection, use and disclosure of personal information at Queen’s University.