Labour Relations

Labour relations refers to the relations between employers and employees. They are affected by certain factors, including labour organizations, collective bargaining, labour market, government policy, the structure of the economy, labour law and technological change. Since industrial relations are regularly connected with unions, it is noteworthy that in Canada, until the 1970s, a greater part of unions and union members belonged to American-based craft and industrial unions. According to some observers, incidence of strikes has been very high and unusual in North American labour relations.

Studies have also disclosed that the frequency of savagery and unlawfulness emerging out of labour disputes has been much higher in the US and Canada than in other comparably industrialized countries. They included the relatively recent development of large-scale “mass unionization,” a extensive deposit of pressure and common hostility arising from the boundless, extended and very often violent opposition of employers to unions; intense organizational and leadership rivalries among unions; the highly decentralized structure of labour organization and collective bargaining in most industries; and the absence of a strong or dominant labour party capable of gaining power at the national level.

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The relative strength of organized labour in Canada was also affected by cultural and ethnic divisions among workers, especially the considerable gap between Francophone and Anglophones, which was symbolized by the development of the separate francophone confederation of national trade unions in Québec. Maintained geographic and political divisions also precluded effective unionization and often set the interests of the workers in one region against those in another.

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Politically, the labour movement had been divided since the turn of the century, when the trades and labour congress, backed by the American Federation of Labour, ousted the activist knights of labour. Disputes over conflicting beliefs, programs and organizational goals became less intense with the formation of the Canadian Labour Congress in 1956. Since then a lot of unions have subdued away from traditional American-controlled organizations in a drive for national sovereignty.

Some are in the CLC and some in the Confederation of Canadian Unions. Government intercession is another factor progressively impacting labour relations. Since W.L. Mackenzie King, as federal deputy minister, presented the Industrial Disputes Investigation Act of 1907 to curb western Canada’s militant coal-mine workers, governments in Canada have acted to maintain “law and order” and to protect employers’ property and latitude of action rather than to protect the rights of employees to organize and bargain collectively. This tendency is apparent in a history of expeditious resort to mandatory intrusion, such as back-to-work legislation and obligatory adjudication, to settle disputes.

Canadian Labour Laws:

Both Federal and Provincial Laws

Canadian labour laws cover all employees in Canada with the majority (approximately 90%) covered under provincial labour laws. The remaining are secured under federal labour law through the Canada Labour Code. The labour laws varies from one province to another. Canadian labour laws and employment laws are quite challenging to employers doing business in Canada as these laws are constantly being modified. Furthermore, to these consistent progressions, those employers having business all around Canada, or in different provinces, are concerned to dissimilarity in the employment laws of the various provinces and territories. What can also add to the employment act disputes is the fact that both the federal and the provincial governments can have jurisdiction over labour and employment issues in a province depending on which industry the enterprise operates in.

These labour acts and employment acts can be very confusing to new businesses to the Canadian labour environment, as well as for local businesses that are expanding from provincial markets into the Canadian national market for goods and services. The constant change associated with employment and labour law in Canada poses a significant challenge for employers doing business here. That test is intensified by the fact that employers with operations across Canada may be subject to differing employment laws in each province.

Canada Labour Code (CLC):

Federal Employment Law

Canada Labour Law alludes predominantly to the Canada Labour Code (CLC) which is the labour law consolidated under a federal Act, and which regulates work undertaken by the federal government or business undertakings that falls under federal jurisdiction.

This Code consists of three parts:

1. Industrial Relations: Deals with the general industrial relations aspects covering the union-management interaction, union official recognition, a difference declaration in those industries that fall under federal jurisdiction. 2. Occupational Health and Safety: Lays out the legislation covering workplace health and safety issues in areas under federal jurisdiction. 3. Standard Hours, Wages, Vacations and Holidays: This section interprets the federal employment standards which covers the conditions of employment such as operational hours, pay, common holidays, time off leave, layoffs, severance pay, and unreasonable dismissals, etc.


Unions still have a place in Canadian Workplace. Labour unions engage in collective bargaining with employers to determine issues such as salary, the rules and regulations of labour, and employee security. Unions also take on in political activities on behalf of workers and have historically had ties to political parties, such as the New Democratic Party (NDP). Unionized workers in Canada include industrial and office workers and public employees in government administration, schools, and hospitals, engineers, professors, nurses, teachers, and other skilled workers. workforce are less expected to be unionized in private service-sector firms such as retail stores, restaurants, banks, and insurance companies, because employers in those areas have forcefully opposed unions. Labour organizations exist on a diversity of levels, from confined workplaces to global organizations.


  1. JAMIESON, S. M. (2006). Labour Relations. Retrieved from
  2. Canadian Labour Laws: Including Labour Relations Codes And Employment Laws. (2013). Retrieved from
  3. Canada Labour Code: Federal Labour Relations Act And Regulations. (2013). Retrieved from
  4. MacDowell, L. S. (2004). Labour Unions in Canada. Retrieved from

Cite this page

Labour Relations. (2016, Apr 14). Retrieved from

Labour Relations

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