THE QUÉBEC CASE: IS THERE A SECRET?
uébec trade unions can boast about a unionization rate of 39.7%, which is the highest in Canada (average 31.2%) and much higher than the mean American rate. Nevertheless, this enviable situation at best has stabilized, and for the worst has started to decline, if decimals are to be taken up seriously. But let us consider the actual situation and its more recent developments in the legal framework and institutional arrangements. As those are the result of social relations, in which the strength
... which the strength of trade unions, as well as their audience and legitimacy play a significant role, it is very difficult, and clearly out of the scope of this article, to screen all of the favourable factors that contributed to Quebec's positive labour relations situation. One key factor which, to trade union eyes, remains problematic, is the declining rate in the private sector (26.2%), as the traditionally unionised manufacturing jobs disappear and trade unions hardly make up with successes in the private tertiary sector. In this article, we will put forward the three factors that, as far as the unions are concerned, may not have been decisive but were surely important in this relative success in unionization. We intentionally focus on subjects that are at discussion in the U.S. Employee Free Choice Act. And, not surprisingly, these are the same matters which Québec trade unions have asked for or are fighting to keep, considering their instrumental role to the process of unionization. First is the basis on which union recognition is obtained -i.e. a ballot or majority union card sign-up. Second is the scheme of arbitration of the first union contract. And lastly stands the creation of a Commission des relations du travail (CRT) in 2001 (operational in 2003), an administrative body of a new type, with an encompassing mandate covering all the juridical apparatus related to work but also dedicated to the acceleration of procedures related to requests of union accreditation.