Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2022-05-16

Labour Law and Union Growth: The Case of Ontario

Document type Thesis
Author Forrest, Anne
Degree Ph.D., Industrial and Business Studies
Publisher University of Warwick; Warwick, UK
Date 1988
Pages 357 pages


What role the law should play in encouraging the growth of trade unions is a matter of considerable controversy in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Limits to growth in other sectors of the economy coupled with heightened employer hostility to unionism have made the extension of collective bargaining to the tertiary sector the most pressing task for unions in the 1980s. In a limited way, the Canadian procedure for certifying and recognizing unions is being considered as a model for labour law reform. And there is much to recommend the Canadian system. It is far more efficient than its American counterpart. There are fewer delays, fewer unlawful interventions by employers, and a substantially higher likelihood that newly organized unions will be granted certification. Even so, unions have failed to break into the trade, finance, and services industries that are so critical to their future. Taken as a whole, Canadian labour law tends to block rather than promote the growth of unions in the unorganized sectors of the economy. The certification procedure is only one aspect of a legal regime that has as its primary purpose the preservation of industrial peace, not the encouragement of union growth. By shaping bargaining structure and regulating bargaining tactics, Canadian labour law tilts the balance of power in favour of employers. Small, fragmented unions are frequently pitted against large corporations and as there is nothing to stop antiunion employers from using their overwhelming strength to frustrate the collective bargaining process, efforts to organize the tertiary sector have failed.