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The term "industrial relations" is generally used to refer to the relationship between a union (an organization run by and for workers) and the employer (the organization or organizations the workers in the union work for).
the union's primary role in the work- place is to represent the work- ers or employees in interactions with the employer. The union is able to carry out this role because Canadian provincial and federal law gives it the formal power to negotiate mutually acceptable workplace rules and working conditions with the employer.
The term "labour relations" is sometimes used to describe the union-employer relationship. This term is derived from the definition of unions as organized labour— that is, as workers who have formally joined together to advocate for work-related issues. Legislation governing industrial relations is usually referred to as labour law or labour legislation
However, "industrial relations" is the preferred term for union- employer interactions in the Canadian context;
"industrial relations" is a more appropriate descriptor of the union-employer relationship than "labour relations," since it empha- sizes that there are two parties in the relationship and does not focus only on "labour." It also indicates that the relationship exists within the context of an industry or workplace.
One part of the debate over the appropriate usage of the term "industrial relations" questions whether the term should also be used to describe workplace relationships between employers and non-unionized workers. According to one widely used defini- tion, "industrial relations" is "a broad, interdisciplinary field of study and practice that encompasses all aspects of the employment relationship.
This definition clearly implies that the study of industrial relations includes both non-unionized and unionized work- places, and, in fact, in recent years, the scope of industrial relations research has expanded to include studies of non-unionized workplaces
We would argue, however, that the term "industrial relations" is more appropriate as a descriptor of union-employer relationships than of employer-employee relationships in non-unionized workplaces
The simplest way to explain the difference between the terms "human resource management" and "industrial relations" is to say that the former has a broader range and is generally applied to employment- related issues of importance to all organizations. One Canadian human resource man- agement textbook defines human resource management as "the policies, practices and systems that influence an employee's behavior, attitude and performance in the attain- ment of organizational goals.
In most academic settings, as elsewhere, "industrial relations" is the term used to refer to the study of union-employer relationships.
Union-management relationships and, more broadly, conflicts between work- ers and employers are not new topics of interest.
. Here are some examples of how researchers in other academic areas could address industrial relations issues:
• A historian might be interested in the events that led to the formation of a union or to a particular industrial relations conflict.
• A psychologist might be interested in how individual attitudes toward unions or employers develop or change.
• An economist might be interested in how negotiated wage rates in a unionized organization affect wage rates in non-unionized organizations, or affect the cost of living in a particular geographic area.
• A political scientist might be interested in how or why a governing political party changes labour legislation. • A lawyer might be interested in how the wording of labour legislation affects unions' ability to represent their membership effectively.
• A sociologist might be interested in how group or cultural dynamics affect the actions of a union or an employer.
there is no single unifying theory or perspective underlying this field of study. it is unrealistic to expect to find one industrial relations theory that explains everything.
Union-employer relationships involve complex human interactions, and these occur within many different types of work, work structures, and workplaces. Therefore, no single theory or solution could explain every possible situation.
In Canada, legislation relating to labour relations is found in every province and terri- tory, as well as at the federal level.
The conflict over the division of jurisdiction, or legal responsibility for an issue, between federal and provincial legislatures has been ongoing throughout Canadian history.
The question of jurisdiction over industrial relations arises because of the question of whether a union-employer relationship should be governed by federal or provincial labour relations legislation.
up until the mid-1920s, all Canadian industrial relations issues fell under fed- eral labour relations legislation, and industrial rela- tions was considered to be solely within the federal jurisdiction.
The concentration of Canadian legislative power at the federal level was a deliberate choice of the authors of the 1867 British North America Act (the act that estab- lished the first federal Canadian government); they had seen how the United States' system of decentral- ized "states' rights" had contributed to the American Civil War
the outcome of a 1925 legal case, Snider v. Toronto Electrical Commission, established that jurisdiction over industrial relations in Canada was mostly, but not completely, a provincial responsibility. As a result of this ruling, each province eventually developed its own labour relations legislation.
there is still a federal labour relations act which governs employer-union relationships that are deemed to be under federal jurisdiction.
If an employer's business has an interprovincial component—that is, if the employer's activities regularly cross provincial boundaries—then the union-employer relationship is federally regulated.
industries such as banking, telecommunications, broadcasting, and interprovincial trans- port, which all involve business transactions across provincial boundaries, are governed by federal labour relations legislation
Federal labour relations legislation also applies to employees of the federal government and some Crown corporations
if most of an employer's activities take place within the boundaries of a single province or territory, the union-employer relationship is governed by the labour relations legislation of that prov- ince or territory.
approximately 90 percent of union-employer relationships in Canada are under provincial jurisdiction and approximately 10 percent are under federal jurisdiction.
Most Canadian jurisdictions have separate labour relations acts to govern public sector employees—employees of the government itself or of organizations affiliated with the government, such as Crown corporations.
quasi-public sector employees—employees who work for organizations funded by the government but who are not directly employed by the government.
Examples of para-public sector employees are court workers, health care workers, and employees of colleges, technical institutes, and universities.
There are several reasons for having separate labour legislation for these types of employees. One is that the government and its employees have a unique employment relationship. . The government is the employer, but it is also the body that sets the rules under which all employees and employers operate.
Separate public sector labour legisla- tion is intended to recognize that the government holds considerably more power than an ordinary employer. Thus, public sector labour legislation may contain terms and con- ditions designed to address this larger-than-usual power imbalance between employer and employee. Another reason for this separate labour legislation is that public and para-public sector employees often provide services that are needed for communities and provinces to function effectively, such as fire protection, social services, and health care.
In other Canadian jurisdictions, the public sector labour relations legislation establishes a public sector labour relations board. While this board is similar in structure and function to the "regular" labour relations board, its mandate is limited to the administration and enforcement of public sector labour laws.
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is contained in the federal Constitution Act, which became law in 1982. It guarantees certain basic rights and freedoms to all Canadians, and is considered to take precedence over all other laws, with two exceptions. The first exception is laws that "can be demonstrably justified as reasonable limits in a 'free and democratic society. The second exception is laws that provincial legislatures pass by invoking the so-called "notwithstanding" provision. This provision prevents the challenge of a law passed by a provincial legislature if the basis for the challenge is the law's perceived infringement of Charter rights. The purpose of this provision is to permit individual provinces some flexibility in applying the Charter to conditions in their particular jurisdiction.
To date, the following rights have been the subject of major cases involving industrial relations issues:
• freedom of association
• freedom of peaceful assembly
• freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression
In many Canadian jurisdictions, specific groups of workers are not permitted to unionize for a variety of reasons. In Ontario in 1995, the provincial govern- ment repealed a law that permitted agricultural workers to unionize.
excluded farm workers from the jurisdiction of labour law by arguing that unionization of these workers would cause excessive labour costs for small family farms, many of which were already experiencing financial difficulty. This decision was appealed in a series of court cases, and the issue eventually reached the Supreme Court of Canada in the case of Dunmore v. Ontario (Attorney-General).17 The Supreme Court ruled that the right to free- dom of association was violated if an entire class of workers was excluded from protection under labour legislation. The Ontario government responded to the Dunmore decision by passing a law that allowed agricultural workers to unionize but not to engage in collective bargaining.
In this case several British Columbia health care unions challenged the legality of Bill 29, a British Columbia law. The collective agreement between these unions and the British Columbia government specified that the government could not end unionized jobs and assign the work to non-unionized subcontractors. Bill 29 removed those parts of the collective agreement, and also stated that these conditions would not be reinstated in future negotiations
The Supreme Court ruled that Bill 29 was unconstitutional, on the basis that the right to collective bargaining was part of the freedom of association guaranteed by the Charter.
Unionized workplaces are more likely to be in the public sector and to be relatively large in size. The rates of unioniza- tion are quite similar across broad industrial categories, but there are wide variations in unionization rates across different occupations.
. Union membership is slightly higher among women than among men and higher among older workers than among younger work- ers. Union members are relatively well educated, and they usually hold full-time rather than part-time jobs.
The earliest organizations that can be identified as similar to the modern trade union are the craft guilds that emerged in Europe during the 14th century and in North America during the 17th century. The members of craft guilds were usually workers involved in a single trade, such as weaving, woodworking, metalwork, or pottery. In order to under- stand the reasons for the existence of craft guilds, we must understand how work and pro- duction were structured during those pre-industrial times
1 Most craftspeople worked at home or in a small, shared workshop located in the community where they lived. Crafts- people usually owned their business and, in effect, worked for themselves (much like self- employed workers do today).
craftspeople had to do their own marketing; they were respon- sible for identifying and reaching the markets and customers they served
Craftspeople would regularly pay a fee to the guild, and if they were injured or otherwise unable to work, the guild would make payments to them to offset their lost income.
To maintain the guild's control over the labour market, guild members would usually refuse to work or to share skills with craftspeople who were not affiliated with their guild.
Guilds also served an educational function for their members, in providing a forum for the exchange of information and knowledge among the craft's practitioners. Guild members could share information about new techniques, expanding markets, or new products.
The initial challenges to the craft guild system surfaced in Italy during the 14th cen- tury, when merchants created the Wool Guild to displace the clothmakers' guild
The producer also did not have to carry the costs of purchasing the tools for produc- tion, since the craftspeople were expected to provide their own tools. Since craftspeople usually worked at home, the producer did not have to carry the overhead costs associ- ated with operating a production facility or workplace.
by the 18th century, the "putting-out system" was prevalent throughout Europe
These new inventions, such as the flying shuttle (for weaving) and the spinning jenny (for spinning wool), meant great increases in production capacity, since the people using them could produce output more quickly and in greater quantities than craftspeople could
. Mechanization also reduced the demand for skilled workers, since machines rather than human workers could now carry out many of the complex steps of production. Relatively low prices for land facilitated the establishment of large-scale fac- tories, and improvements in transportation and communication meant that raw materials and finished goods could easily be marketed in areas far from their place of origin.
Because factories were centralized places of pro- duction, workers were required to travel to the workplace rather than working from home as before. In addition, because factories were generally located in urban areas, many workers had to leave their rural communities to find employment in cities.
control over work also changed. In the pre-Industrial Revolution economy, the individual craftsperson was both worker and business owner. The craftsperson designed the product, produced it, sold it, and received the financial rewards directly.
In the factories, control of the workplace and ownership of the business rested solely with the factory owner. The owner decided what the factory would produce, designed the production process, and purchased the necessary machinery and raw materi- als. These major changes in work and production initially resulted in generally horrific working conditions.
The focus in the industrialized economy was on increased produc- tion and consumption, which meant that factories operated continuously in order to produce sufficient goods for expanding consumer markets.
One writer visiting a major British cloth-manufacturing region in 1830 reported that weavers who formerly earned 20 to 30 shillings per week as craftspeople earned five shillings or less per week working in clothmaking factories.
In Britain, it was not until 1819 that laws were passed forbidding the employment of children younger than nine years old and prohibit- ing older children from working more than 12 hours per day
there was almost no legal protection for adult workers, and the few laws that did exist were rarely enforced because of a lack of factory inspectors. If workers were injured on the job or became ill after prolonged exposure to unsafe work- ing conditions, the usual remedy was to fire them and hire new workers.
Sidney and Beatrice Webb were English authors whose interest in trade unions developed through their co-founding of the Fabian Society, a socialist group dedicated to large-scale social reform. they believed that these conditions were not simply workplace problems, but were also manifestations of larger societal problems, such as the division between rich and poor
The Webbs were interested in how trade unions emerged in response to industrialized work structures. They researched the origins of trade unions and published their results in two important books
The Webbs suggested that unions emerged primarily because of the separation between capital and labour caused by industrialization.
In the factory-based economy, the worker provided labour but the factory owner provided capital. The factory owner also controlled how labour would be used in the production process.
One method of max- imizing returns was to minimize production costs, including wages; owners and businesspeople would therefore attempt to keep wages as low as possible, regardless of the financial needs of the workers.
The pressures to maximize return and minimize cost were even greater in competitive markets, where the owner or businessperson had less freedom to adjust selling prices if costs changed in other areas of the business.
The Webbs identified three instruments, or "methods," that unions employed to achieve these purposes and objectives
method of mutual insurance. method of collective bargaining. method of legal enactment
The Webbs described two internal mechanisms, or "devices," that unions used to ensure that the unions themselves were democratic and were truly representative of their members' interests.
device of the common rule, device of restriction of numbers
the Webbs felt that the restriction of numbers caused injustice and exploitation in the labour market; under this system, access to certain kinds of work was limited, since only those who were approved or accepted by the union would have access to the training needed for particular jobs. . In the Webbs' opinion, these limitations kept many workers out of jobs with relatively decent rates of pay and good working conditions, and unfairly condemned them to the dismal life of industrialized factory work.
University of Wisconsin-Madison.-The university would subsequently become a renowned centre for teaching and research on unionism.
The contrasts Perlman observed between the Marxist system of labour and the North American system were at the centre of his major work, A Theory of the Labor Movement.
Perlman- He suggested that unions needed the support of the middle class to succeed, and that, in order to gain this support, they had to respect some of the basic tenets of capitalism, such as ownership of private property. If unions had a broader base of support in society, their concerns would be more widely circulated and noticed. Also, if they supported some of the principles of capitalism and did not reject it outright, they would be perceived as cooperative rather than radical and thus be more acceptable to parts of society beyond the working class.
Perlman stated that unions would be most effective if they were motivated by what he called the psychology of the labourer. Labourers, unlike middle- or upper-class individuals, had the experience of scarcity of work—of not being able to find work at all, or of having difficulty obtaining jobs in a highly competitive labour market. This experience would affect unions' goals and objectives, because the issue of employment security would be uppermost in the minds of their members.
Perlman's concern was that while middle- or upper-class individuals might be sympathetic to the goals of unionism, their personal experience would not be the same as that of the labourer, and they would thus not be as sensitive to workers' concerns.
While the Webbs proposed that one of the purposes of unions was to promote large- scale social change, Perlman suggested that the primary purpose of unions was to provide "collective mastery" over employment opportunities and standards. He did not believe that unions should be concerned with gaining ownership of businesses, but instead pro- posed that they should focus on creating economic security and opportunity for their members
John Dunlop, a professor at Harvard University, created one of the most influential theories of union functions with his "systems theory" of industrial relations.
Dunlop attempted to explain how unions functioned by looking at how unions fit into larger social systems.
systems theory explains why an organization functions as it does by depicting it as a system with three interdependent components: inputs, processes, and outputs.
The type of input affects the choice of processes, and the choice of processes affects the output.
systems theory emphasizes not only the existence of distinct parts of the organization, but also the interrelationships between those parts. What happens in one part of the organization may directly or indirectly affect other parts of the organization because of these linkages
Because systems theory explores the effect of interrelationships, it can be used to analyze social and cultural activity in the organiza- tion as well as examining more tangible processes.
Dunlop took the principles of systems theory and used them to explain how indus- trial relations systems operate on two levels: within the framework of the individual orga- nization and with other organizations in the external environment
In Dunlop's framework, unions are one of three actors in the industrial relations sys- tem. The other two actors are management (the employer) and government and/or private agencies.
The interactions that occur among the actors include, for example, collective bargain- ing and grievance resolution procedures. These are processes to which the actors bring their inputs (general ideologies, and positions on specific issues), and it is through these interactions that the inputs are converted into outputs (the collective agreement, and the resolution of grievances).
Dunlop identified four contexts: the technological context (such as the skill level of the workers, the degree of flexibility within the workplace, and job content), market context (labour, product, and geographical), the budgetary context, and the power context (the amount of power the actors have or are able to generate).
, Dunlop's framework recognized a "web of rules" that governs the interactions between the parties within the system. There are three general types of rules in this "web." The first type includes the rules in the workplace that are created through negotiation; these are usually contained in the collective agreement. The second type of rules deter- mines how disputes such as grievances will be governed; these rules are also contained in the collective agreement, but they may be influenced by other actors or contexts, such as government legislation. The third type of rules governs the processes underlying how rules themselves will be determined; these are usually legislative guidelines determining such matters as when management and unions must meet to commence collective bar- gaining, or when a strike or lockout can legally be used as a bargaining tactic.
Once a process or a rule is in place, the actors monitor its success or failure; depending on the result, they can alter subsequent processes or rules to build on successes or to avoid repeating failures.
CANADA AS A COUNTRY: DISTINCT CHARACTERISTICS
The first characteristic is the physical geography of this country. Another distinct characteristic of Canada is its cultural mix. Canada's economic system is the third characteristic. Our fourth and final characteristic is Canada's political structure
. The extreme conditions in the northern part of the country make much of the land within Canada unsuitable for agricultural and other primarily resource-based activities; as a consequence, the majority of Canadians live in the southern part of the country, close to the United States border.
The physical characteristics of Canada have affected the history of Canadian indus- trial relations in several ways. As we will see, most early Canadian unions were local or regional because of the difficulty of communicating with or travelling to other parts of such a large country. Canadian climate and land conditions have forced much of Canadian industry to be either seasonal or resource-based; these circumstances have made success- ful union organizing difficult because of the isolation and lack of permanent employment in these industries.
Proximity to the United States has also meant, at various times in Canadian history, that American workers have competed with Canadian work- ers in the Canadian labour market, and that American unions have exerted influence on Canadian workers.
Canadian unions have not always been successful in addressing the challenges of organizing or representing a culturally diverse workforce; in fact, some Canadian unions have a sad history of racial or cultural discrimination. And, as noted above, Canadian unions and workers have been affected by American unions and workers' easy access to this country.
Canada's economic system is the third characteristic . Because of Canada's vast land mass and the rich stores of resources that can be taken from the land, the Canadian economy was historically based on activity in primary and secondary indus- tries.
Primary industries are resource-based industries, such as forestry, fishing, and min- ing; secondary industries are industries such as construction and steel production, which process or use the products of resource-based industries.
Agriculture has also been an important industry in those parts of Canada where the land is suitable for farming
Toward the end of the 20th century, however, the importance of these industries declined, and the role of tertiary industries (service industries) increased in the Canadian economy.
Another important sector of the Canadian economy is international trade, particularly with the United States. This reliance on trade with other countries means that Canada's economy is more susceptible to the influence of external events than the economy of a country less dependent on external trading relationships would be.
Canadian unions have historically focused on organizing workers in resource-based industries, and have only been partly suc- cessful in organizing workers in tertiary industries.
In practice, Canada is formally governed by a federal Parliament and by provincial or territorial legislative assem- blies. Canadians elect both federal and provincial representatives. Unlike other countries, such as the United States, Canadians do not vote directly for their federal or provincial/territorial leader. Instead, the prime minister is the leader of the political party that has the most elected members in the federal House of Commons, and the premier is the leader of the political party that has the most elected representatives in the provincial or territorial legislative assembly
while there are both federal and provincial labour codes, labour relations is primarily a provincial responsibility,
However, some evidence suggests that this decision has seriously hindered the growth of the American union movement, since a single piece of legislation may not fully address different regional conditions. The Canadian structure of different jurisdictions in each province, while causing difficulties for employers and unions that operate in more than one province, has allowed for experimentation and reform to meet the particular needs of each jurisdiction.
The early years of the Canadian union movement have been called the "period of local unionism." The earliest attempts to organize trade unions in Canada were limited to specific geographic areas and small groups of workers, usually those in a particular trade or occupation. This model of organizing is known as the craft union model. The popularity of this organizing model in Canada in the 1800s can be attributed to two main factors.
One factor was the size of Canada. The difficulties of transportation and commu- nication over long distances made organizing a local union much more practical than attempting to organize a regional or national union
The second main factor contributing to the popularity of the craft union model of organizing was the need to protect wage rates for workers in skilled trades. This factor was particularly important in areas where tradespeople's expertise could not easily be replaced by the work of unskilled immigrant labourers. Forming a union was a means for trades- people to control the market for their skills and thus to control wage rates.
Canada's economic role as an exporter, rather than importer, of goods has been identi- fied as another factor in the predominance of the craft union model of organizing
Informal workers' groups that undertook collective actions such as strikes were formed in Canada as early as 1827. These groups protested poor wages and working con- ditions on large public works projects, and their structure may have been modelled on the social or fraternal societies to which many of the workers already belonged
The first formal unions emerged at roughly the same time as the informal alliances.
While craft unions could control the regional labour market for the particular skills of their members, as well as ensuring consistent quality of work by con- trolling training, their membership was restricted to practitioners of the craft. This model of organizing did not encourage unionization of less-skilled workers or workers in non- trade occupations—the alternative organizing model of industrial unionism.
This form of unionism focuses on "strength in numbers" and maximizing power by recruiting as many union members as possible, regardless of occupation, rather than concentrating solely on membership within a particular occupational group.
conflicts between different regional interests, and between craft and industrial unionism, have occurred throughout Canadian labour history.
Because of the dominance of craft unions, the next major expansion of the Canadian labour movement came through affiliations with international unions—"international" in this case usually meaning based in the United States. International influences were informally present in many of the early Canadian unions. Immigrant workers from Britain brought their experience in the British trade union movement to Canadian work- places, and there is evidence that the first international unions in Canada were British unions of engineers and carpenters that established affiliated locals in southern Ontario in the mid-1800s.
The mid- and late 1800s saw the continental movement of American-based international unions entering central Canada. These unions either formally affiliated with existing Canadian unions or recruited members into new Canadian locals of the American unions.
the continental movement was restricted primarily to Ontario and other regions with trade links to the United States
. Few Quebec unions saw any commonalities with the American unions, and most chose to remain independent to preserve their distinct regional culture
Most of the Maritime unions also continued to be regional and craft-based
The first regional unions in British Columbia—representing typographers, shipwrights, and miners—emerged at approximately the same time
In the late 1800s, several events further solidified the existence of Canadian unions. During this period, unions began to realize that it was better to work together for common issues rather than simply to concentrate on their own concerns and activities. They thus began to cooperate in campaigns and joint action. One example of this sort of coopera- tion was the NINE-HOUR Movement in 1872
The standard working day in most trades at this time was 10 to 12 hours long, and in Britain and the United States, a movement was underway to pass legislation restricting the working day to nine hours
It was argued that a shorter working day would produce better-quality work, because workers would not be exhausted, and that society as a whole would benefit by freeing up time that work- ers could spend with their families and communities.
"Nine-Hour Leagues" held public meetings to promote the benefits of a shorter working day. Employers, however, resisted the idea, and this resistance even- tually resulted in a major strike in the spring of 1872 involving typesetters and printers in Toronto.
. Around the time that unions started to emerge in Canada, British legislators, attempting to stop the growth of unions in Britain, used exist- ing "criminal conspiracy" or monopoly laws against union organizers. These laws were originally designed to stop merchants or traders from colluding with each other for the purpose of controlling or dominating a product market.
British legislators expanded the application of the laws, defining unions as a method of monopolizing the labour market. Thus, under the monopoly laws, unions could be considered a means to restrain trade, and "criminal conspiracy" charges could be laid against union organizers
This use of the British law was eliminated by the passage of a new Trades Union Act in 1872, which established the right of workers to organize a union (although there were still severe penalties against strik- ing and picketing).
Canadian employers could therefore still use monopoly laws to resist organizing attempts. It was under the Canadian version of the monopoly laws that the Toronto union organizers were charged in the 1872 Toronto strike.
The person who laid the charges against the leaders of the Toronto strikers was George Brown, the publisher of the Globe newspaper
Macdonald identified the "criminal conspiracy" charges against the Toronto strikers as providing an excellent opportunity to strike back against Brown and his newspaper
The charges against the Toronto strikers were dropped, but the incident had had the effect of "[breaking] the momentum" of the Nine-Hour Movement and the desired reforms to the length of the working day were not gained. The Nine-Hour Movement did, however, have one lasting effect.
The inter-union networks established by participation in the movement inspired the formation of the first federations of trade unions. The Canadian Labour Union was established in 1873, although the "Canadian" part of the name was somewhat misleading, since the first non- Ontario delegate did not attend an annual meeting until 1878
the TLC remained a national force in the Canadian labour movement for the next 70 years. Trades and Labour Congress
Several unions in the United States, recog- nizing the limitations of organizing on the craft-based model, were promoting the idea that all workers, regardless of occupation or employer, should belong to unions. The first union to bring this idea to Canada was the Knights of Labor, which had successfully organized railway workers in the United States.
The Knights of Labor had a significant impact on the Canadian labour movement because they organized workers in occupations that most existing Canadian unions considered too challenging to organize, such as rail- way work, mining, and forestry.
The Knights of Labor also organized workers—such as women and members of minorities—who had previously been excluded, intentionally or otherwise, from other unions' organizing efforts
The papal letter declared membership in the Knights of Labor a "grievous sin," because the organization supposedly required "unswerved obedience to occult chiefs" and thus allegedly required members to renounce their religious beliefs and loyalty to the Church.
Members of the Knights of Labor who belonged to the Roman Catholic Church were banned from tak- ing communion, and had to file declarations with their parish priest that they had left the Knights if they wished to regain the privilege
Canadian workers appreciated the employment that the new industries created, particularly since many of these industries operated in rural or remote areas with otherwise limited job opportunities. But they also resented the American management that too often seemed to favour options to maximize the amount of profits flowing to the United States, and too rarely considered the circumstances of the workers or the communities where the industries were located.
In 1898, the American Federation of Labor (AFL), the federation of craft unions headed by the influential leader Samuel Gompers, sent its first "fraternal delegate" to Canada to organize workers.
By 1900, the AFL had over 10,000 members in its Canadian locals. Another significant event in 1900 was the passage of the federal Conciliation Act. This legislation created a federal department of labour and gave it the ability to appoint third-party intervenors or commissions of inquiry to assist in resolving labour disputes.
The AFL's most active organizer in Canada, a carpenter from Hamilton named John Flett, was elected president of the TLC at its 1902 convention. The election of a craft union member as the president of the largest Canadian labour federation further rein- forced craft unionism as the dominant model of organizing in Canada
The delegates voted to forbid any national Canadian union from joining the TLC if an international union represented workers in the same occupation or with the same employer. The TLC delegates also decided to accept membership from only one central labour organization or federation in any given region of Canada. As a result of these decisions, the Knights of Labor locals and several national unions—totalling about one-fifth of the TLC's membership—were expelled.
Economists who have studied wage levels during this period have noted that while the dollar amounts of wages increased, there was no increase in real wages (pur- chasing power) and that during some periods real wages actually decreased.
Achieving a steady income was also important to the ever-increasing number of immigrants arriving in Canada to seek a better life, although many of these "cheap labour" immigrants were brought to the country specifically to work for substandard wages.
One major industry that saw a good deal of union activity was the railway industry.
Several major railway strikes took place, either to gain union recognition or to support demands for wage increases in light of hefty government subsidies to the industry.
Several of the major unions representing Canadian railway workers were international unions based in the United States, however, and the American unions were not totally sympathetic to the Canadian cause
In some of the strikes, the American-based railway unions, attempting to avoid conflict with American employers, sided with the railway owners and insisted that the Canadian workers accept less than desirable contract terms. These events suggested that the Continental Movement might have negative, rather than positive, implications for Canadian workers.
As a result of the railway strikes, the federal government, with the encouragement of then-Deputy Minister of Labour William Lyon Mackenzie King, passed the Industrial Disputes Investigation Act in 1907. This legislation required that industrial disputes under federal jurisdiction be submitted to a neutral third party, who then would either make recommendations or, by prior agreement of the parties, impose a binding decision to end the dispute
This act was later supplemented and replaced by other legislation, but it introduced principles that are still present in many current Canadian labour laws, such as the prohibition of strikes and lockouts during the time of a third-party intervention in a dispute and requirements for conciliation before a strike or lockout takes place
During the early 1900s, there was significant strike activity in Atlantic Canada, where unions had been much more active in organizing less-skilled and non-craft workers than unions in central Canada
A total of 411 strikes were recorded in Atlantic Canada between 1901 and 1914, and 140 of these strikes were attributed to associations of unskilled labourers
The period of economic growth that began in the early 1900s lasted until about 1914, when American-based unions accounted for approximately 80 percent of the total Canadian union membership.
the Wobblies were more explicitly socialist in orientation, advocating general strikes as a means not only of achieving workers' demands, but also of bringing about a new egalitarian society
Three simultaneously occurring factors made unionization more attractive to Canadian workers
The first factor was the increased pro- duction needed to supply the war effort. Dissatisfaction grew in workplaces as workers were pressured to improve their rate of production but did not receive any corresponding improvement in wages.
The second factor was the continuing mechanization of produc- tion. This further reduced the labour market value of skilled craftspeople, as tasks for- merly performed by craft workers were taken over by machines
finally, the federal government expanded the jurisdiction of the Industrial Disputes Investigation Act to include munitions industries
Many Canadians were upset that individuals opposed to the war were being forced through conscription to go to war and to endanger their lives; they also objected to the fact that the conscription process was structured so that workers, rather than the busi- nesspeople profiting from the war, were being sent to the battlefields of Europe
at the 1918 TLC convention, motions opposing conscription were defeated. This rejection may have occurred because of the perception in some parts of Canadian society that opposition to conscription was either outright treason or a failure to support the Canadian troops already at war.
the American-based One Big Union (OBU), an industrial union that by 1919 had nearly 30,000 members in British Columbia
Goodwin's death caused a one-day general strike of protest in Vancouver, and he is still considered a martyr by many in the union movement
The other major event that illustrated the wid- ening of social divisions is the Winnipeg General Strike. The strike, which began in May 1919, is par- ticularly significant in Canadian labour history because it was the first extended, large-scale general strike involving workers from different occupations and unions.
Previous large strikes either had been short strikes or had involved workers from a single union, occupa- tion, or employer. In the months prior to the Winnipeg strike, many unions across Canada had gone on strike for increased wages and the regulation of working hours, and many had been unsuccessful in reaching their demands.
On May 15, between 30,000 and 35,000 unionized and non-unionized Winnipeg workers walked off their jobs.42 The resulting shutdown had a major impact on a city of 200,000 residents, and the reaction of the establishment was swift.
Many Canadian labour historians identify the Winnipeg General Strike as a turning point in the Canadian union movement
The development of unions in Quebec followed a some- what different pattern in the rest of Canada because of the involvement of the Catholic Church, which played a highly influential role in Quebec society at the time. Initially, many unions in Quebec were founded with the encouragement of Catholic leaders, who saw involvement in unionization as one way to re-establish the Church's influence over the "labouring poor."
Unionization by Quebec-based and controlled unions was also perceived as a way to resist the influence of international unions, which might not be sen- sitive to issues of Quebec independence and autonomy
Confédération des travailleurs catholiques du Canada (CTCC)
This federation became extensively involved in organizing workers in Quebec, and, although its formal links with the Catholic Church gradually dissipated, it was increasingly militant in defending workers against the "practised ethnocentrism" of American-owned firm
Most Canadian labour historians view the 1950s and 1960s as a period of relatively strife- free growth and development for unions. Many basic issues, like the ability of workers to organize and to bargain collectively, had been resolved by the passage of federal and provincial labour legislation.
Canadian Labour Congress (CLC)
The CLC in turn affiliated with a Quebec coun- terpart, the Quebec Federation of Labour (QFL).
local unions in Quebec whose parent union is a CLC member can choose to be affiliated with either the CLC or the QFL.
One issue of concern to many people in the labour movement during this period was the increasing bureaucratization and centralization of the predominantly interna- tional unions
The start of the 1960s saw the beginning of a period of growth in the Canadian union movement, mostly due to extensive organizing in the public sector. Public sector union- ization had been relatively minor up to this point because of the perception that employ- ment in the public service was, as the name suggests, a form of service to the community or the country that implicitly required a long-term commitment.
The concept of "service" included the intrinsic satisfaction of contributing to the successful functioning of a demo- cratic society. Because of the intrinsic satisfaction and service orientation of the work, public sector workers were usually prepared to accept lower pay than they would earn doing similar work in the private sector
In 1965, two circumstances made public sector unionization more of a priority for the federal government. After a national postal strike, the government realized that ignor- ing public sector bargaining issues would have negative consequences. A federal election around the same time as the postal strike resulted in the election of a Liberal minority government.
The Liberals in Parliament were dependent on the parliamentary support of the New Democratic Party—the party most friendly to organized labour—to maintain their power to gover
Since the minority government would benefit in several ways from satisfying labour's demands, the federal government passed the Public Service Staff Relations Act, which gave federal public servants the right to arbitration or strike action to settle bargaining disputes. This act served as the model for most provincial public service legislation, and, by 1975, every province and territory had some form of labour relations legislation governing public service employees.
para-public sector. This sector, as noted earlier, consists of municipal or regional organizations that receive funding from gov- ernments but whose employees are not directly employed by the government; hospi- tals and schools, for example, are in the para-public sector
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