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.

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 Although the Ontario government repealed this program in 1995, it continued to be offered in several provinces in Canada, and in the United States.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.

Labour Management Relations in Canada: A Survey of Union Officials

Although several recent articles have underscored the importance of human resource management (HRM), employee involvement (EI), and labour-management cooperation (LMC), there has been very little research addressing these topics from the perspective of organized labour. In my meetings with union officials and employees, questions that frequently arise include: What are other unions doing? To what extent are other unions adopting LMC? Can unions cooperate with employers yet still meet employee and union goals? What are the risks/rewards of moving toward greater cooperation with management?

The present study is aimed at providing some practical information about labour-management relations across the country.

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.

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