Thursday, October 23, 2014

Research on claims suppression, employment standards enforcement and minority unionism

The Journal of industrial Relations has just released a strong new issue. The articles include the role of unions in employment standards enforcement and an examination of union conflict under minority unionism (co-authored by AU professor Helen Lam).

Employment standards (ES) are legislated standards that set minimum terms and conditions of employment in areas such as wages, working time, vacations and leaves, and termination and severance. In Canada, the majority of workers rely on ES for basic regulatory protection; however, a significant ‘enforcement gap’ exists. In the province of Ontario, this enforcement gap has been exacerbated in recent years due to the deregulation of ES through inadequate funding, workplace restructuring, legislative reforms that place greater emphasis on individualized complaints processes and voluntary compliance, and a formal separation of unions from ES enforcement. The implications of these developments are that, increasingly, those in precarious jobs, many of whom lack union representation, are left with insufficient regulatory protection from employer non-compliance, further heightening their insecurity. Taking the province of Ontario as our focus, in this article we critically examine alternative proposals for ES enforcement, placing our attention on those that enhance the involvement of unions in addressing ES violations. Through this analysis, we suggest that augmenting unions’ supportive roles in ES enforcement holds the potential to enhance unions’ regulatory function and offers a possible means to support the ongoing efforts of other workers’ organizations to improve employer compliance with ES.

One option for reversing US union decline, requiring no legislative change, would involve re-legitimizing non-majority or minority union representation, allowing unions to organize without running the gauntlet of union certification. Such minority representation, applicable only to workplaces without majority union support on a members-only basis, could run in parallel with the existing system of exclusive representation in workplaces where majority support is achieved. The increased representation in the currently unrepresented workplaces would inevitably promote workers’ collective voice and contribute to union revival. However, minority unionism has been criticized for breeding union competition because it is non-exclusive. In this paper, the nature and extent of inter-union conflict under minority unionism are re-examined, using survey data from unions in New Zealand which already has non-exclusive, minority union representation. The low levels and consequences of conflict suggest that the benefits of minority unionism far outweigh any potentially unfavourable effects.

The Institute for Work and Health has also just released a brief examining the evidence for suppression of reports about workplace injuryand illness in Canada.

-- Bob Barnetson

No comments:

Post a Comment