Canadian public sector labour relations

For both researchers and policy makers, there is a growing interest that emanates from public sectors located in the United States and Canada, in as far as an effective dispute resolutions is concerned. Of central concern is the role that is played by the government in the restructuring of service delivery in the public sector of government, and the deadlock procedures that are normally witnessed in North America. For example, there have been identified trhee types of restructuring for the public sector in Canada, from a unionisable perspective.

These entail an adversarial bargaining, a cooperative approach, or the use of legislation to impose a solution (Swimmer, 2001). With such a restructuring context, there can be expected to be weaknesses in the resolution of disputes in the public sector. interest arbitration, which is a widespread type determining bargaining impasses in a majority of the public sectors, has increasingly been scrutinized as an efficient means for deciding disputes over basic changes in employment conditions (Rose, 1994) According to Lewin et al (1988), bargaining tactics are not a necessity in the Canadian system of labor relation.

As such, a union’s position may be jeopardized through political means. Lewin et al (1988) further opines that Canadian bargaining laws tend to be uniform across jurisdictions, unlike those of the United States. There is also a possibility that the laws may be a vital source of power for a union during the first phase of a collective bargaining, during a time when the management-union parameters have not yet been defined well.

In the case of Canada though, the two units (management and the unions) have been in negotiations for close to thirty years. As such, the deadlock procedures as well as the comprehensiveness of the law are not deemed particularly important (Swimmer, 2001). Of late, there have been a number of labor disputes in the Canadian public sector that have elicited heated debate. An example of this is the 2006 strike by workers from the Toronto transit commission

The 2006 wildcat strike of the Toronto Transit Commission (TCC) Background information On 29th May 2006, an illegal strike occurred at the transit commission of Toronto. The strike was initiated by janitorial and mechanical workers of Toronto transit commission, totaling about 800. These workers were protesting over a proposal to effect changes in their work schedule, and included among others the deployment on a permanent basis of some 100 workers to work on night shift (Van Rijn, 2006).

The strike, which started from 4 AM, rapidly evolved into a total disarray of services, when the drivers decided to shut down the transit system of Toronto after drivers had honored the protest line. The strike by the wildcats had been initiated by the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU). There was even an extreme episode whereby a union representative, who had boarded a bus, ordered the passengers to disembark, and later on had to instruct the bus driver to return the bus at the parking lot.

Thousands of commuters had to make do with alternative sources of transport to work, after the shutting down of subway stations. Streetcars and buses were also not in operation. The strike by the wildcats is believed to have shut out close to 800,000 riders who depend on the services of the workers on a daily basis (Van Rijn, 2006). At 7 AM, the labor relations board of Ontario (OLRB) had an order to ‘cease-and-desist’ the protest, but the order was effectively ignored. Later, the OLRB issued a back-to-work order, and again this was ignored.

Ultimately, officials from the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) had to request the worker for compliance, resulting in a slow rise of the hitherto limited services. By evening, full service had already resumed. There was a tussle between the workers and the management, with the latter claiming that what the workers did was an illegal action. On the other hand, the workers were claiming that they had previously been locked out of the discussion to effect changes in their schedule (Swimmer, 2001).