The Legacy of PC 1003

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Canadian Labour and Employment Law Journal. Volume 3 (1995), p. 357-400.


Order-in-Council PC 1003, which was implemented by Mackenzie King's Liberal government in 1944, signalled the adoption of a Wagner-style collective bargaining scheme as the key element in Canadian labour relations policy. Despite various refinements and amendments to collective bargaining legislation across Canada, PC 1003 has provided the basic statutory framework for labour relations for the past fifty years. In their paper, Fudge and Glasbeek evaluate the legacy of PC 1003. They recognize that it represented a fundamental and positive change in Canadian labour relations policy; the government compelled employers to recognize and to bargain with duly elected representatives and/or trade unions. But they argue that, despite the progress represented by this step, PC 1003 was not intended to alter the balance of power radically, that is, to ensure trade unions better agreements and/or to guarantee strong constraints on managerial prerogatives. By locating PC 1003 in the broader political and economic context of World War II and the immediate post-war reconstruction period, Fudge and Glasbeek identify the inherent structural limitations in the scheme. They chronicle how labour relations board policies regarding bargaining unit determination and certification entrenched a fragmented bargaining structure, reinforced the sex segregation of the labour market and promoted a specific form of responsible trade unionism. The logic of the assumption that collective bargaining was to reflect an atomized, privately organized market system made PC 1003 particularly inapposite to the public sector, they maintain. Fudge and Glasbeek argue that this helps to explain why it has been relatively easy for governments to roll back public sector collective bargaining rights. They also consider why the Canadian labour movement has reacted to increased labour market competition in the 1980s and 1990s by calling for reforms to the PC 1003 model which will enhance union bargaining rights, rather than endorsing a wholesale revision of the legislative framework. They suggest that unions have tended to identify their success both in increasing their membership and in bargaining improved terms and conditions of employment from 1944 to the mid-1970s with the legislative framework. This ignores the extent to which favourable economic conditions (protective trade barriers and managed competition) were a pre-condition for effective trade union organization and collective bargaining. Fudge and Glasbeek conclude that recent changes in the Canadian labour market, which include the proliferation of small firms, the expansion of precarious employment and increased competition, draw attention to the fundamental problem with the union movement's strategy of maintaining or upgrading the PC 1003 model.

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