L'auteur explore l'idée de la négociation par secteurs, en discute les avantages et les inconvénients en regard des exigences de l'économie québécoise et suggère enfin certaines avenues d'évolution selon lesquelles notre droit de la négociation collective ainsi que ses mécanismes d'application pourraient être appelés à évoluer.
Industry-wide Bargaining and the Quebec Labor Law
One cannot say that the idea of industry-wide bargaining has been among the main preoccupations of employers and unions in Canada. While management seems to resist the idea, labor does not present a clear-cut policy on the subject. In fact, our decentralized collective bargaining system has been mostly criticized by scholars for the last few years.
THE CLASSICAL ANALYSIS OF THE INDUSTRY-WIDE BARGAINING SYSTEM
Let us note at the beginning that within the structure of labor-management relations, the centers of decisions have tended to move towards higher levels due to the centralization of power from the union local to the federation within our labor movement. Our second remark would be that a leading firm in a given industry will probably set the negotiation pattern for the entire sector. Even if this pattern setting negotiation is not industry-wide bargaining as such, the results are very much the same. It is thus a generalized trend that union will tend to structure negotiation in such a way that it will enhance wage and working conditions standardization within a given sector. On the other hand, the employers will form associations when they are faced with a multi-union bargaining. Industry-wide bargaining is therefore as much accepted as it seems necessary to the institutionnal security of both parties at the negotiation table.
It would be interesting to look at the advantages of such a negotiation.
1.—While reducing competition in wages and working conditions, industry-wide bargaining may help to stabilize employment conditions of a greater number of employees and give the enterprises a better knowledge of their labor costs.
2.—Information tools and research teams are more at hand with such a negotiation. Agreements tend to be more rational, more objective and more thoughtful of social implications.
3.—Industry-wide bargaining tend to prevent unjustified competition between unionized and non-unionized sectors.
4.—Rationalization is much more possible in an industry-wide bargaining.
5.—It is possible for the partners to follow public income and price policies.
Let us now turn to the disadvantages of industry-wide bargaining presented mainly by those who support decentralized collective bargaining.
1.—Such a negotiation system will ruin the principle of the free enterprise system :competition.
2.—It can lead to greater government intervention.
3.—The principle of free and democratic unionism would be in danger.
4.—The industry-wide bargaining system could introduce a disasterous uniformity in wages and working conditions.
5.—Labor disputes would be much more dangerous for the community.
INDUSTRY-WIDE BARGAINING AND THE PRESENT ECONOMIC SITUATION IN QUEBEC
A social and economic policy is necessary if we want the industry-wide bargaining system to be adapted to the present situation. It is however evident that this type of negotiation will take different forms according to the problems involved. This does not mean that everything must be sent to the sector level. It is evident that some problems are to be settled at the local levels while others are to be included in industry-wide bargaining.
In order to be realistic, I must mention some of the difficulties the Quebec situation presents to such a bargaining system. One may seriously wonder if the Quebec industrial structure is ready for such a formula. It seems that the Quebec economy is characterized by a small degree of product diversification, by an important exportation policy and by a cultural and management clash between the large enterprise, the medium sized and the small firm. All of these present serious difficulties to the installation of an industry-wide bargaining system.
SOME NECESSARY CHANGES IN THE QUEBEC LABOR LAW
One thing is sure: our law must not be an obstacle to industry-wide bargaining. It however actually forbids such a type of negotiation.
The certification section of the Labor Code should be amended in order to favorise greater unionization. The determination of the bargaining unit policy should be revised. The content of the collective agreement should be redefined by the legislator. The conciliation procedures should not be considered as a necessary step before obtaining the right to strike or lock-out. Our law should favor the creation of joint committees at all levels. Finally, it would be wise to reconsider all the present system of arbitration especially for the problems regarding the application of the agreement.
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