Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Forging Business-Labour Partnerships

Forging Business-Labour Partnerships: The Emergence of Sector Councils in Canada

Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 336
  • Book Info
    Forging Business-Labour Partnerships
    Book Description:

    This collection brings together the views of economists, political scientists, and industrial-relations specialists on a major innovation in Canadian industiral relations: joint business-labour sector councils.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7501-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)

    The Canadian experience with sector councils, examined in this book, bucks the dominant trend of recent years towards decentralization of employmentrelations institutions. Consequently this collection of papers analysing experiences with these councils is welcome. Together, these contributions allow us to place the decentralizing trend in historical perspective, with an eye to assessing the role that intermediary institutions can play in improving employment relations today and in the future.

    What has been the role of sectoral institutions in the past? At one time industry-wide collective bargaining structures were created to ‘take wages out of competition’ and thereby stabilize employment conditions. But...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. List of Sector Councils
    (pp. xv-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-30)

    The Canadian experience with sector councils is unique in the world. Councils have been or are being established in over twenty-five sectors to achieve a number of objectives, including delivery of adjustment programs, administration of training funds for skills upgrading, and establishment of industry standards. The federal government and certain provincial governments see the development of sectoral activities, and sector councils in particular, as a key component of their human resource and adjustment strategies and have devoted considerable resources to support these activities. Sector councils, as a new form of labour-management cooperation, represent a major innovation in our industrial relations...

  7. Part I: Historical and Economic Perspectives on Sector Councils

    • 1 A Historical Perspective on Sector Councils
      (pp. 33-42)

      In writing about sector councils from a historical perspective I was reminded of a passage I read about historians and history when I was a student many years ago. It was written by Alan Bullock (1959) in an anthology entitledThe Philosophy of History in Our Time: ‘the moment the historian begins to explain, he is bound to make use of general propositions of all kinds – about human behaviour, about the effect of economic factors and the influence of ideas and a hundred other things ... He cannot begin to think or explain events without the help of the...

    • 2 The Development of Sector Councils in Canada: An Economic Perspective
      (pp. 43-58)

      This chapter provides an economic perspective on the development of Canadian sector councils. Sector councils in Canada contain elements of uniqueness, although elements of the approach are either being used in other jurisdictions or were used at an earlier time, both in the United States and Canada. Joint committees, in particular, have been used in a variety of sectoral contexts in the North American industrial relations system.

      The current Canadian initiatives have their roots in the work of the Task Force on Labour Market Development in 1981. However, support for the concept can also be found in the report of...

  8. Part II: Labour and Business Approaches to Sector Councils

    • 3 A Labour Perspective on Sector Councils
      (pp. 61-71)

      Over the past ten years almost every private sector union in Canada has explored a sectoral training strategy. It has been seen as a way of increasing the employer’s investment in training and representing the membership in adjustment and training issues.

      In exploring a sectoral strategy, unions have been guided by a number of principles that have grown out of their long experience in labour-management relations and the particular experience of several unions in initiating sectoral councils. Working with individual companies and employer associations, unions have faced the question of how councils should be governed and how they would operate....

    • 4 A Canadian Business Perspective on Sectoral Human Resource Councils
      (pp. 72-98)

      By early 1997, more than twenty national sector councils (NSCs) were operating in Canada. All of these institutions devote much if not all of their attention to human resource issues. All receive some level of financial support from the federal government to cover administrative and operating costs, and/or to fund various programs. Apart from these sector councils, the federal government is also engaged in sponsoring human resource studies and other types of activity in about thirty other sectors, often under the auspices of Human Resources Development Canada’s Industrial Adjustment Service. Whether full-fledged sectoral institutions will eventually emerge in these latter...

    • 5 Human Resources Think for Themselves: The Experience of Unions in the Sectoral Skills Council
      (pp. 99-128)

      Since the early 1980s, the Canadian economy has experienced an unprecedented degree of economic change. Workers and firms have coped with the effects of two major recessions, as well as a period of deep structural adjustment. This structural adjustment arises from the same global forces of integration and technological change affecting the other industrial economies; but it is compounded by the introduction of the Canada–US Free Trade Agreement in 1989 and the North American Free Trade Agreement of 1991. The FTA and NAFTA accelerated the restructuring of the manufacturing sector in the Canadian economy, as US-based multinational firms began...

  9. Part III: Sector Initiatives in Quebec and Ontario

    • 6 The Configuration of Sectoral Human Resource Initiatives in Quebec in the 1990s
      (pp. 131-157)

      The aim of this chapter is to present the overall configuration of sectoral human resource initiatives in Quebec in the 1990s.¹ Although some of the initiatives referred to in this chapter date back to the 1980s, sectoral initiatives have only truly emerged in Quebec since the beginning of the present decade. Despite their recent nature, they represent a significant innovation in the field of industrial relations and, as such, unquestionably constitute an important subject of research.

      The chapter first reviews some of the milestones in the recent history of Quebec labour market policies and of concertation practices between the actors...

    • 7 Ontarioʹs Experiment with Sectoral Initiatives: Labour Market and Industrial Policy, 1985–1996
      (pp. 158-190)

      The decade between 1985 and 1995 in Ontario politics was one of considerable policy experimentation and institutional innovation.¹ In these years, successive Liberal and New Democratic Party governments pieced together a new provincial economic development strategy emphasizing productivity-enhancing investments in knowledge, skills, and technology. The aim was to mount a higher value-added, higher-wage job creation response to the challenges of the new global competition. Critical to the economic strategy’s realization were ‘social partnerships’ forged in new institutions located between state and market, granting private sector representatives leadership roles in the design and delivery of public policy. Priority was placed on...

  10. Part IV: Sector Councils and Joint Governance

    • 8 The Dynamics of Joint Governance: Historical and Institutional Implications for Sector Councils
      (pp. 193-207)

      The rise of sector councils in Canada represents an important institutional development in North American industrial relations. These forums foster joint dialogue and action on training, worker participation, job creation, and other sector concerns. Without joint sector councils, these issues would be addressed on either a more piecemeal, micro basis or on a more diffuse, macro basis. If labour, management, and government leaders are to realize fully the potential of Canada’s sector councils, however, it is important to understand their historical and institutional context.

      Sector councils have historical antecedents in labour-management committees and councils that have been established throughout the...

    • 9 Sector Councils as Models of Shared Governance in Training and Adjustment
      (pp. 208-233)

      It has been said that labour-management relations have entered a new era. Unions are far more likely than ever before to be involved in discussions about the design of work and to be active participants in workplace change (Pomeroy, 1995). There is general agreement among industrial experts that labour-management cooperation is essential to business competitiveness and results in tangible gains for both parties (McDermott, 1994; Kochan and Osterman, 1994).

      Yet more often than not, joint labour-management activities are neither extensive nor sustained partnerships (Commission on the Future of Worker-Management Relations, 1995). They tend to focus on short-term, company-oriented goals such...

    • 10 The Canadian Steel Trade and Employment Congress: Old-fashioned Labour-Management Cooperation or an Innovation in Joint Governance?
      (pp. 234-254)

      The idea of joint labour-management decision-making has been suggested for as long as workplaces have existed. Yet their occurrence in practice has been limited at both the sectoral as well as at the more decentralized level of the enterprise or the establishment. The low incidence may be accounted for, at least in part, by the lack of our understanding of the effectiveness of joint decision-making as a rule-making process within industrial relations. While calls for joint decision-making have been numerous, the research literature on its impact on the parties has been thin.

      Sector Councils as a form of joint labour-management...

  11. Part V: Evaluation of Sector Councils

    • 11 Program Evaluation Criteria Applied to Sector Councils
      (pp. 257-268)

      Evaluating sector councils is extremely difficult because they have a multiplicity of objectives and forms. As well, they are still in their infancy in Canada, and hence are still evolving. In this paper we apply a set of generic program evaluation criteria to sector councils and evaluate them largely as an adjustment mechanism, intended to deal with both downside and upside labour situations. The paper begins with a discussion of interrelated adjustment pressures for which sector councils are a response. It then discusses the importance of using a set of program criteria to evaluate initiatives such as sector councils. The...

  12. Part VI: Sector Councils, Corporatism, and Industrial Relations

    • 12 Sector Councils and Sectoral Corporatism: Viable? Desirable?
      (pp. 271-294)

      The idea that sector councils represent a new governance arrangement in the training field seems largely uncontested. Until recently the training of industrial workers has been governed principally by a combination of market and hierarchy.¹ Individual firms made their own training decisions subject to the incentives provided by government programs designed to complement or leverage private investment. In recent years a new governance arrangement has emerged, in which business and labour organizations, using public funds, are given considerable autonomy to formulate and implement training policy at either the plant or the sectoral level.

      But what kind of governance arrangement is...

    • 13 The Role of Sector Initiatives in the Canadian Industrial Relations System
      (pp. 295-316)

      At the macro-economic level, it is generally acknowledged that successful human capital formation supports productivity growth and hence national economic competitiveness (Thurow, 1992). Yet there are concerns that the existing institutional arrangements in Canada and the United States in the areas of general education, skills training, and labour force transitions are poorly matched to the requirements of emerging industries and high-performance workplaces (Betcherman et al., 1994; Appelbaum and Batt, 1994). Policies aimed at developing new institutional arrangements in the labour market must not only account for a broad range of economic and social considerations, but must also adapt to an...

  13. Conclusion: Issues and Lessons from the Sector Council Experience
    (pp. 317-330)

    Drawing upon the preceding chapters of the volume, this concluding chapter provides a discussion of a number of issues confronting sector councils and the overall lessons of the sector council experience. It also highlights the accomplishments of the councils, develops the general principles for building successful ones, and discusses their future.

    Sector councils in Canada have many accomplishments to their credit, and they have laid the foundation for the attainment of a number of important goals likely to have wider benefits for society. They have helped to foster a climate of trust based on a mutual desire and ability to...

  14. Contributors
    (pp. 331-332)