The Road Ahead in Industrial Relations

Labour Relations

This is a reprint of the closing keynote address presented at the special one-week Industrial Relations Seminar of the Industrial Relations Centre, Queen’s University on October 22-27, 1972. The author is Judge, District Court, District of Parry Sound and Chairman, Ontario Labour-Management Arbitration Commission. Judge Little is well known for his valuable contributions as chairman of arbitration boards and as a member of various public bodies in the field of Canadian industrial relations. He is also a member of the University Council and the Board of Trustees of Queen’s University.


It is my intention to discuss with you the industrial relations situation in Canada today; to relate it to what has occurred in the past; to consider the new environment for the seventies; to visualize emerging issues, problems and opportunities; and to suggest imperatives for labour, management and government if the challenges before us are to be met. In asking me to deal with these matters, those arranging this seminar are placing me in the dual role of a prophet and the solver of problems. As one who has always endeavoured in his role as conciliator or mediator to take a realistic and pragmatic approach to the immediate solution of specific labour-management disputes, I seriously doubt if I am qualified either to play the role of prophet or to offer general solutions. It seems to me that it is almost impossible to predict what will happen in this field because one’s predictions are subject to so many variables. Most of you know what these variables are. Suffice it to say, that when jurisdiction is divided amongst eleven different governments, of several political persuasions, and divergent views on how such problems should be tackled and solved, it is impossible to say what each will propose, and finally do. Irrespective of these differences in viewpoint however, it is becoming increasingly obvious in industrial relations, as in other areas of difference in this country, that our future as a nation depends on a greater degree of co-operation by government, labour and management if a realistic approach to solving such problems is to be made. Perhaps we can stimulate our thinking along these lines today.

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