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).
Confronting the employment standards enforcement gap: Exploring the potential for union engagement with employment law in Ontario, CanadaEmployment 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.
-- Bob Barnetson