Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2022-05-16

Accommodating Minority Unionism: Does the New Zealand Experience Provide Options for Canadian Law Reform

Document type Article
Author Harcourt, Mark
Author Haynes, Peter
Journal Canadian Labour & Employment Law Journal
Volume 16
Date 2011
Pages 51-80


Relying heavily on ILO standards, the Supreme Court of Canada in B.C. Health held for the first time that the Charter guarantee of freedom of association protects not only the right of unions to organize but also their right to bargain collectively. In the authors' view, the decision in B.C. Health calls into question the established legal framework of labour relations in Canada, according to which only those unions with majority support in the bargaining unit can exercise such rights, and implies that the state is under a duty to protect the associational rights of minority and non-statutory unions as well. This paper explores how the New Zealand experience with minority and pluralist unionism, as it has developed under that country's Employment Relations Act 2000, may provide guidance to Canada on what an alternative model might entail and on the consequences of adopting such a model. Emphasizing key points of comparison and contrast between New Zealand and Canada, the authors contend that a legal framework which supports majoritarian exclusivity can also allow and support minority unionism, in a way that is consistent with international standards on freedom of association.