"Organizing the Unorganized" Revisited | Queen's University IRC

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"Organizing the Unorganized" Revisited

An Analysis of the Efficacy of Labour Legislation in Facilitating Collective Representation in the Canadian Banking Sector

Jane S. Bailey
Publication date: May, 1991

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.