Home > macro economics > Labour Disputes & Unionization in Canada

Labour Disputes & Unionization in Canada

As a Canadian I was shocked to see that Canada lost more working days in 2009 than Greece or any other socialist country… due to labour disputes… no, I’m not lying… look at this chart from the very venerable The Economist.

I really wonder if this is true… although one commenter reminded me why it could be true (at least in 2009).

…Ottawa had a multi-month bus strike and Toronto had a very long garbage strike… This was closely followed by a similar strike in Windsor. Museum workers were on strike for practically the entire year in Ottawa. Some of the mines in Sudbury were closed for months due to strikes…

I recall university staff walking out all over Ontario and even auto and steel workers being locked out or going on strike, mainly in Ontario. I called Canada Post to track a package and found out their call centre workers were on strike in Winnipeg…

…and then goes on to list the barely averted strikes

Even Air Canada workers threatened to strike in the middle of the recession when their airline could have gone bust. Nurses got a hefty pay increase in Newfoundland with a barely (but still disruptive) averted strike. And there was a panic that the liquor stores would go on strike in Ontario but they managed to secure some extra coddling by politicians worried about suburbanites going dry on a long weekend. I know I had to change plans when VIA rail wasn’t operating due to a CN conductors strike.

These mostly public sector strikes have become such a normal part of Canadian life that we tolerate them and work around them. It is a game that ends for the most part in higher pubic sector pay/benefits even though the barely noticed strikes only prove that their services and work are hardly missed.

Labour unions (private & public) are a legacy of the industrial revolution and in Canada are prevalent everywhere from manufacturing to service sectors… in 2009, 31.4% of employed workers were part of a union!!…

Sure the rate has been declining slowly but how does that compare to other developed countries? Somewhere in the middle… Startlingly French are the least unionized, followed by imperialist US and socialist Scandinavia has the highest trade union density among developed nations.

Trade union density corresponds to the ratio of wage and salary earners that are trade union members, divided by the total number of wage and salary earners (OECD Labour Force Statistics).

Next task is to identify unionization rates in private vs public sectors…

  1. September 11, 2010 at 5:02 PM

    Interesting. I’m sure you agree it doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story. Other countries forgo labour unrest and have better working relationships with their staff. France has a much stronger government-union MoU than does Canada.

    My grandfather worked in the Downsview De Havilland plant for 30 years. They were on strike close to a third of the time. How could an employer put up with this? Because it’s a cheap way of handling demand swings. It’s not necessarily the case that unions are the complete cause of the problem.

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