Labour Law Leads the Way

Labour relations has always played a leadership role in Canada. Businesses and unions represent vital interests in our communities.

Their interactions have set many of the important ground rules by which we live. This is because work and work opportunities are central to us all. It is upon businesses or jobs that we build our lives. The content of labour law is therefore very telling about a society and its direction.

I thought it might be therapeutic, if not instructive, to reflect on this leadership role.

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The Changing Role of the Neutral in Dispute Resolution

We are in a period of profound change. The combination of new technology, global trade and recurring recessions has resulted in the demise of many Canadian workplaces and the restructuring and re-engineering of many others. Today’s watchwords have become ‘flexibility’ and ‘competitiveness.’ There have been many casualties. Older workers who have lost their jobs have not easily found alternative employment. Where work has been found, it is seldom comparable in content or remuneration to what was lost. Younger workers have also been adversely affected. Caught by surprise, they too often lack the skills required in the new economy. They therefore find themselves lining up to apply for the fewer assembly and unskilled jobs that remain or for work in the service sector which pays considerably less and for which they must compete with their elders who are now unemployed. Increased structural unemployment in the double digit range has been the result.

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