Relationships by Objectives: The Experience at Petro-Canada

If Canadian industries are to compete successfully in the new economy, unions and management must move away from their traditional adversarial relationships. This study analyzes a conflict resolution method, known as Relationships by Objectives (RBO), that directs unions and management away from conflict and towards cooperation through joint problem solving. RBO was part of the Preventive Mediation Program provided by the Ontario Ministry of Labour beginning in 1978. Although the Ontario government repealed this program in 1995, it continued to be offered in several provinces in Canada, and in the United States.

This study discusses the rationale for such programs and provides a comprehensive view of the process involved in a RBO program. The second half of the study examines the impact of RBO on the union-management relationship between the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, Local 593, and Petro-Canada’s Lubricants Centre in Mississauga, focusing on the short- and long-term impacts of the program. This case study includes extensive interviews with members of management and the union. Various industrial relations and economic indicators are also used to judge the effectiveness of the RBO program in promoting industrial peace.

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