Cet article examine le concept paritaire et son application historique dans les relations du travail, ainsi que ses nouvelles applications, particulièrement dans le domaine de la santé et de la sécurité ainsi que celui de la formation des travailleurs.
The parity committee, one of the oldest and most neglected institutions in the Québec industrial relations context, is being rediscovered, both for its traditional value and for its ability to meet our new needs. Recent legislation with regard to worker health and safety, and recent proposals by a Government Task Force on adult education both rely heavily on the parity framework. Similarly, new directions being planned for the Collective Agreement Decrees Act give hope for the future of this concept. Given this increase in awareness and interest, the purpose of this paper is to examine the concept of parity and its historical applications in the field of labour relations as well as its new applications in this particular area, and that of worker health and safety, and vocational training. Based on this examination, we will briefly present some observations concerning the successful uses and applications of parity.
The parity committee is fundamentally a System of industrial government in which equal numbers of employer and employee representatives discuss issues of mutual concern and exercise joint decision-making powers within a cooperative, not conflictual, framework. The parity committee system operates as a complement to existing institutional arrangements, namely the collective bargaining process, and can be applied at a variety of levels: national, industrial, regional and local; and to a variety of subjects, or any single one.
On an organizational level, the parity committee has three important components: a democratic function, an accountability function, and a permanent staff function. On an operational level, certain institutional and individual behaviour pat-terns influence the functioning and quality of the parity committee.
In order to function properly a parity committee must respect certain guidelines. Basically, the parties must first recognize and accept each other as partners. Both have to accept the parity formula as an answer to their concerns. They must have institutional and factual equality. The subjects they discuss must be of mutual interest, and essentially non-conflictual in nature. The partners have to be held accountable. They should ensure continuity in their work through some form of permanent staffing.
The concept of parity should be introduced gradually, and should not be used as a restrictive or discriminatory regulatory tool. Within a given industrial sector, a multiplicity of committees is to be avoided, though the basic approach should be a decentralized one. Finally, it is essential to remove all possibility of sanctions, in order to oblige the partners to cooperate, rather than engage in warfare.
This approach, in turn, will bear positive results. The partners will develop a sense of belonging to a larger entity, and thus satisfy collective as well as egotistical needs. Industry will have given itself a means of attaining greater industrial peace as well as better quality of working life. This will also have a favourable impact on the conventional labour relations scène in Québec, both directly and indirectly, by ad-dressing itself to the problem of unorganized workers. Psychologically, this approach should also increase the self-actualization needs of workers and employers by allowing them to get away from the taxing practice of institutionalized confrontation.
This paper basically contends that, as an institution, the parity committee is in-deed suited to play a role in today's context. At its inception in the 1930's, the parity committee was a feasible answer to unfavourable conditions, and the prevalent social doctrine of the Catholic Church with regard to labour relations. With massive industrialization, and all of its inherent advantages and disadvantages, Québec Society needed new institutions, more in line with those of the North American context it was at last participating in. This brought about the general marginalization of the parity committee, though it still survived in a handful of sectors. The System by which it was replaced sought to restore a certain balance in the relationship between employers and employees.
In the present context, the balance has been largely attained. In addition, major social and economic changes in our society indicate the urgency of having our social partners cooperate. The concept of parity and its institutionalization is presented not as a panacea, but as a workable and adaptable alternative, capable of meeting today's new requirements. As the concept of parity gains acceptance in various other fields, such as worker health and safety and vocational training however, we should be aware of the need to coordinate these functions to allow them to develop fully.
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