Union-Management Relations in Canada


584 pages
Contains Index
ISBN 0-201-18620-9





Reviewed by Thomas Kuttner

Thomas Kuttnertaught at the Faculty of Law, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton.


This is arguably the most important single volume to be published in Canada in the field of industrial relations. The editors state in their preface that their intention in putting it forth was “to reduce the substantial void which presently exists” in the discipline. They are far too modest. The void has indeed been filled due to their efforts and those of the host of contributors who collaborated in the issuing of this volume. The text is tightly composed with a unifying theme and theoretical framework within which the many contributions from authorities in divergent disciplines — economists, political scientists, sociologists, psychologists, lawyers, and historians — are fitted together to form a coherent whole. The editing is superb, the task of the editors no doubt eased by the calibre of contributors whose expertise was sought and obtained.

The book is divided into seven major divisions, and these in turn subdivided into 22 separate chapters. In addition there are two appendices, the first a collective bargaining simulation constructed on the lines of modern game theory, and the second comprised of several grievance-arbitration cases for which a satisfactory resolution is to be sought. The editors’ joint contribution, entitled “The Canadian Industrial System,” comprises the first of these seven major divisions and is the firm base upon which the rest of the text is constructed. Adopting for descriptive purposes the Woods Task Force on Labour Relations definition of an industrial-relations system as “the complex of market and institutional arrangements, private and public, which society permits, encourages or establishes to handle superior-subordinate relationships growing out of employment and related activities” (p. 2), the authors then present a modified version of Dunlop’s celebrated industrial-relations system as a tool with which to analyze the Canadian industrial relations system from a theoretical perspective. That system, with its inputs, actors, conversion processes, and outputs, shapes the remaining six divisions of the text.

Under the heading “The Environment of Labour Relations” are collected four chapters (two legal, one economic, and one historical) placing in perspective the context in which the Canadian industrial relations system operates. Donald D. Carter outlines in chapter two the framework of collective bargaining legislation in Canada. Harry J. Glasbeek describes and assesses in chapter three the incidents of the contract of employment at common law. In chapter four Noah M. Meltz introduces us to the concept and functioning of the Canadian labour market. Finally, Desmond Morton provides us in chapter five with a survey of the history of Canadian labour.

The second division, “The Parties in Labour Relations,” presents us with two chapters, one by John H. Godard and Thomas A. Kochan analyzing the place and role of Canadian management in collective bargaining, and the other by Gary N. Chaison assessing the growth, structure, and dynamics of Canadian unions. Division four is comprised of three chapters on the process of collective bargaining. The first, by John C. Anderson, is an analysis of the structure of collective bargaining; the second, by C. Brian Williams, a study of the negotiating process itself; and the third, again a joint effort by the editors, an analysis of dispute resolution procedures and in particular the strike mechanism. In the fifth division, “The Outcomes of Collective Bargaining,” Morley Gunderson writes of the union impact on wages and other terms and conditions of employment while Kenneth P. Swan gives a legal perspective on the union’s impact on management of the enterprise. The contributions of Jeffrey Gandz on “Grievances and Their Resolution” and of Bryan Downie on “Union-Management Co-operation” are found in the sixth division, entitled “The Union-Management Relationship.”

The five substantive divisions just described, together with the editors’ first contribution on theory, provide a solid and broad-based introduction to the field which will stand in good stead not only the student but also the practitioner of industrial relations. Into this basic framework the more advanced student or practitioner can then integrate the various topics subsumed under the seventh division, “Special Issues in Canadian Industrial Relations.” Here we have eight chapters ranging over a variety of different subject matter including collective bargaining in the public sector (Allen Ponak), by professionals (Mark Thompson), in the construction industry (Joseph B. Rose), in the Province of Quebec (Jean Boivin), and in Europe and North America (Roy J. Adams). In addition, there is a discussion of wage and price controls by Frank Reid and one on the issue of employment and pay discrimination by Harish C. Jain. The final chapter in this division is an exercise in prognostication by John Crispo entitled “The Future of Canadian Industrial Relations.”

In summary, a volume which no self-respecting individual interested in the field of union-management relations in Canada would be without.


Anderson, John C., and Morley Gunderson, “Union-Management Relations in Canada,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 30, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/38863.