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British Columbia Employer Advisor Keeping Employers Posted on Developments in Labour and Employment Law

Collective Bargaining or Legislated Outcomes?

Posted in Labour Relations, Unions
Earl Phillips

Where are we headed with collective bargaining?  Are legislated outcomes to labour disputes a good or bad thing?  Does the old model of economic warfare still work to help settle collective agreements?

These are questions to keep in mind as the BC Teachers square off with the provincial government, as the federal government repeatedly steps into Air Canada’s labour relations, and as the courts try to sort out what the Charter of Rights has to say on the matter.

There are no easy answers, but here are some preliminary thoughts:

  • labour disputes are more likely prolonged, and the underlying problems almost always left unresolved, by legislative action,
  • employers do not always benefit, and do not always want, government to step in,
  • binding interest arbitration rarely ends well for the employer,
  • freedom of association under the Charter of Rights should not be used to entrench current labour relations models,
  • free collective bargaining that is allowed to run its course – even at the cost of lengthy strikes or lockouts or to the point of death of some businesses – is economically more efficient and ultimately more just, and
  • public sector collective bargaining disfunction should not influence responses to private sector labour disputes.

Below are links to some recent news stories and commentary that touch on the issues, as well as recent court cases about whether there is a Charter right to collective bargaining and to strike.

 [http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/british-columbia/rod-mickleburgh/history-shows-collective-bargaining-for-teachers-fails/article2378686/;  http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/british-columbia/bc-politics/bc-legislature-passes-bill-to-end-teachers-strike/article2370908/;   http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/air-canada-pilots-urge-union-to-open-mind-to-industrys-new-realities/article2381995/; Saskatchewan Federation of Labour v. Saskatchewan, 2012 SKQB 62; Ontario (A.G.) v. Fraser, 2011 SCC 20;