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Labour Unions, Workplace Rights and Canadian Public Policy


  • John Godard


This paper addresses the future of labour unions and of workplace rights as they pertain to Canadian public policy. I argue that the established policy regime has unduly limited the purview of unions and the rights and protections afforded workers, and that unions are becoming increasingly marginalized under it. After then considering various alternatives, I argue for a "good practice" paradigm, one that relies less on formal certification and collective bargaining rights and more on the provision of universal rights designed to ensure basic levels of dignity, fairness, and voice (i.e., good practice) at work. Under this paradigm, the role of unions would be less one of negotiating and enforcing rights where they are certified, and more one of ensuring the effective implementation and enforcement of state-mandated rights in all workplaces, regardless of whether they are certified for purposes of collective bargaining.

Suggested Citation

  • John Godard, 2003. "Labour Unions, Workplace Rights and Canadian Public Policy," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 29(4), pages 449-467, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpp:issued:v:29:y:2003:i:4:p:449-467

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Barry T. Hirsch & Edward J. Schumacher, 2001. "Private Sector Union Density and the Wage Premium: Past, Present, and Future ," Journal of Labor Research, Transaction Publishers, vol. 22(3), pages 487-518, July.
    2. Chris Riddell, 2001. "Union suppression and certification success," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 34(2), pages 396-410, May.
    3. Richard B. Freeman & James L. Medoff, 1979. "The Two Faces of Unionism," NBER Working Papers 0364, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. John H. Pencavel, 2004. "The Surprising Retreat of Union Britain," NBER Chapters,in: Seeking a Premier Economy: The Economic Effects of British Economic Reforms, 1980-2000, pages 181-232 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. David E. Guest & Riccardo Peccei, 2001. "Partnership at Work: Mutuality and the Balance of Advantage," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 39(2), pages 207-236, June.
    6. Thomas J. Courchene, 2002. "Human Capital in an Information Era," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 28(1), pages 73-80, March.
    7. Richard P. Chaykowski, 2002. "Globalization and the Modernization of Canadian Labour Policy," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 28(1), pages 81-91, March.
    8. Paul Smith & Gary Morton, 2001. "New Labour's Reform of Britain's Employment Law: The Devil is not only in the Detail but in the Values and Policy Too," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 39(1), pages 119-138, March.
    9. Garrett, Geoffrey, 1998. "Global Markets and National Politics: Collision Course or Virtuous Circle?," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 52(04), pages 787-824, September.
    10. Brown, Charles, 1999. "Minimum wages, employment, and the distribution of income," Handbook of Labor Economics,in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 32, pages 2101-2163 Elsevier.
    11. Kochan, Thomas A., 1996. "What works at work : overview and assessment," Working papers 3886-96., Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
    12. Dore, Ronald, 2000. "Stock Market Capitalism: Welfare Capitalism: Japan and Germany versus the Anglo-Saxons," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199240616.
    13. Freeman, Richard B, 1976. "Individual Mobility and Union Voice in the Labor Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 66(2), pages 361-368, May.
    14. Daphne G. Taras, 2002. "Alternative Forms of Employee Representation and Labour Policy," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 28(1), pages 105-116, March.
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