Whither Unionism: Current State and Future Prospects of Union Renewal in Canada

Trends and pattern of union membership and density as well as organizing activity are clear signs of stagnation and complacency in the labour movement. While some unions are doing better than others, the labour movement as a whole appears to be at standstill. It is also evident that there does not appear to be any sense of impending crisis, partly because of steady growth of public sector employment feeding the illusion of stability.

Workplace Change in Canada: Union Perceptions of Impacts, Responses and Support Systems

Workplaces in Canada have experienced a wide variety of changes. There is growing evidence that they are becoming increasingly lean, insecure, stressful, unsafe and highly controlled. While there has been considerable analysis of workplace change and its effect on workers and firm performance, much less is known about the impact on unions. This paper presents highlights of the results of a major survey of unions on their perceptions of the impact of change initiatives and their responses to these initiatives.

Adapting To Change: Union Priorites in The 1990s

Many unions around the globe have been experiencing a drop in membership and a decline in density over the last ten years. The union response, as documented in this paper based on a survey of innovations and change in Canadian labour organizations, has been both defensive and pro-active, focusing on protecting current levels of wages and benefits as well as fostering social unionism.

Canadian Labour’s Response to Work Reorganization

This paper was presented at the Annual Conference of the Canadian Industrial Relations Association, Carleton University, Ottawa on June 3-5, 1993. The paper is based on a larger study of the role of unions and collective bargaining in human resource innovations undertaken by the author as a part of a research project on Human Resource Management in Canada under the auspices of Industrial Relations Centre, Queen’s University.

Union Beliefs and Attitudes of Canadian Workers: An Econometric Analysis

This paper was presented at the annual meeting of the Canadian Industrial Relations Association, held at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario on June 2-4, 1991.

The purpose of this paper is to explore the determinants of union beliefs and attitudes of workers in Canada, and to examine if attitudes towards unions differ systematically by gender, that is, whether men and women differ in their union beliefs and their disposition towards joining a union. Three indicators of union beliefs and attitudes are used in the study: 1) union membership status; 2) general belief that “unions are still needed to protect the interests of working people,” and 3) instrumentality perception that “workers benefit from the actions of unions.”

Women’s Issues and Collective Bargaining

The purpose of this paper is to examine the bargaining agenda of selected major Canadian unions on women’s issues and the effectiveness of their efforts towards incorporating these issues into their collective agreements. The first section highlights the union agenda and the common provisions the unions have been pursuing at the collective bargaining table. The second section analyzes the frequency of the collective agreement clauses on women’s issues overall and of selected unions. The final section summarizes the finding and their implications. The Appendix provides a profile of labour organizations included in the study.

This paper was presented at the annual meeting of the Canadian Industrial Relations Association at Kingston, Ontario, June 2-4, 1991.

Industrial Relations in the 1980s: Issues and Implications

The papers in this volume reflect these diverse and contradictory trends and patterns in Canadian industrial relations in the 1980s in the face of what some observers believe is “a fundamentally altered economic and public policy environment.” These papers were presented at a symposium held at Queen’s University on November 21, 1987, to mark the 50th anniversary of industrial relations programs at Queen’s University. The purpose of the symposium, chaired by the Honourable Senator Carl Goldenberg, was to assess the state of industrial relations in the 1980s and to determine whether recent developments signal a fundamental change in Canadian industrial relations, as some commentators have argued.

The volume was edited by Pradeep Kumar, and includes:

  • Introduction and Summary – By Pradeep Kumar
  • Labour Relations at General Motors of Canada – By Fred Curd Jr.
  • Union Approaches and Responses in the 1980s – By Sam Gindin
  • Flexibility: The Critical Issue in Industrial Relations – By Harold Giles
  • Breakdown of Public Sector Collective Bargaining – By John Fryer
  • Industrial Relations in the 1980s: A Mix of Adversarialism and Cooperation – By John T. Dunlop

Organized Labour in Canada and the United States: Similarities and Differences

This paper was presented at the 36th Annual Conference of the Association of Labor Relations Agencies, held in Albany, New York, July 26-31, 1987.

Labour movements in Canada and the United States have much in common and close historical ties. They are bound together by a common continental heritage, interdependent product and labour markets, and a similar labour relations framework in the two countries. International unions, with predominant membership and head offices in the United States, are an integral part of the Canadian labour movement. Unions in the two countries share common goals and beliefs, have similar functions and organizational structures, and have been fighting in recent years an uphill battle for legitimacy in face of a hostile and challenging economic, social, political, and technological environment.

Recent Wage Deceleration: Short-Run Response or Structural Change?

Since 1982, wage inflation in Canada has shown a pronounced deceleration. Wage settlements and rates of increase in various measures of earnings have declined to their lowest level in the past 25 years. Wage cuts, wage freezes, de-indexing, and flexible compensation in the form of two-tier wage systems and lump-sum payments in lieu of wage increases have become a frequent occurrence in collective bargaining. This wage experience is somewhat of a novelty for Canada, and is also unique among OECD countries.

Many observers are wondering if the recent wage behaviour and related collective bargaining outcomes mark a turning point in industrial relations. More specifically, do the wage developments of the past few years reflect a fundamental change in wage setting processes or are they simply a natural and temporary response to the long and severe recession of 1981-82 and the subsequent uneven pattern of economic recovery?

This paper attempts to explore these questions. Its purpose is twofold: (a) to review recent trends in various wage indicators, in particular the wage and related outcomes of collective bargaining; and (b) to assess empirically if these trends are a product of the changed economic and labour market conditions or represent a structural change in wage setting processes.

The paper is divided into four sections. The first section looks at various aggregate wage and earnings series, including the base rate increase in new collective agreements, with a view to deriving some firm conclusions on the recent wage behaviour. Wage performance in post-war recessions and recoveries, and the developments in Canada and the U.S. are also briefly compared and contrasted. The following section examines in more detail wage and related outcomes of collective bargaining. In section three, predictions from estimated Phillips Curve wage equations are compared with actual wage increases to assess whether the recent wage deceleration can be explained by the high rates of unemployment and the steady decline in inflation since 1982, or represents a structural change in wage setting processes. The last section of the paper summarizes the extent and nature of wage flexibility and its policy implications.

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