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Neutrality Agreements in Canada

‘Neutrality agreements’ have been used by American unions since the 1970s as a means of improving the probability of union organizing success.  These are privately bargained contracts that define the parameters for organizing campaigns.  They include things like a requirement for the employer to remain ‘neutral’ (to not bad-mouth the union or unionization), to permit union organizers onto company property to speak to workers, to provide the union with a list of employee names (and maybe home addresses), and to voluntarily recognize the union if the union can prove it has majority support among the employees.  Often, this test of support is by way of a ‘card-check’, which requires the union to collect membership cards on behalf of a majority of employees in the bargaining unit.

The recent deal between the CAW and Magna (the “Framework of Fairness”) is an example, as is the recent (and short-lived) arrangement between the Steelworkers and Dofasco.  Neutrality agreements have become relevant in Canada since the 1990s as governments moved from statutory card-check union certification models to mandatory vote models.

From a legal perspective, these agreements raise a bunch of interesting issues.  For example, by giving the CAW a litany of organizing rights (access to the factories, the right to hold union meetings during working hours, the endorsement of the company, etc), has Magna given the CAW illegal “support”, as prohibited by Section 70 of the Ontario Labour Relations Act?  

No doubt, some of the various legal issues neutrality agreements raise will one day need to be resolved in litigation, especially if these agreements become more common in Canada.  I published a piece a few years back exploring some of them in detail.  But for those of you who have better things to do than read long-winded legal treatments of obscure issues, here is a shorter survey of the issues from a paper I presented recently at a conference.

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One Response to Neutrality Agreements in Canada

  1. tina anne Reply

    January 26, 2009 at 10:05 am

    funny thing when the union got all the cards signed at the roadside etc.. TMMC cambridge..they hand them out to us as we leave or come in…
    i heard the count was a problem… they coudlnt use contract workers in their count (which is 75 of the workforce). it isnt right. that is how TMMC keeps out the Union year after year. the employees need and want it but cant with the contract workers. at least thats what was heard to be the issue, there certainly would be enough at some point to get the union in there if it wasnt for this contract work issue. they will always need a recount of cards, and i dont know somethign has to change.. for the workers there.. neutrality would be hard to achieve at union level with workplace being contract workers just being let go. oh sorry we dont need you.? unless one got a 30,000 pay off it would be tough to get a new career or job that allows one to continue at the same income level….. needed negotiating at its finest would have to come into play and some heck of a mediator at contract time..i have a headache thinking about it.. but they need the union in there and its wanted..

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