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THE TRADE-UNION MOVEMENT IN QUEBEC IGerard Dion Out of a wage-earning population in the province of Quebec of 1,500,000, about 316,000 workers belong to unions.' This proportion is approximately the same as that found in the other industrialized provinces of Canada. The Quebec labour movement comprises two bodies: the Canadian and Catholic Confederation of Labour, which, despite its name and character, is almost exclusively limited to the province of Quebec, and the Quebec Federation of Labour, affiliated with the Canadian Labour Congress. Of the two, tbe Quebec Federation of Labour has more members: nearly two-thirds of the unionized workers are said to belong to it. Because trade-unionism is essentially a popular movement, it is natural that it should rellect in some ways the character of the population in a given area, as well as the problems found there. One is thus not surprised to discover that the labour movement in the province of Quebec possesses , along with some features common to trade-unionism in other Canadian provinces, certain special characteristics; furthermore, it faces certain unique difficulties. The province of Quebec undoubtedly has a population with a quite distinctive culture, history, and tradition. In one respect or another the French and Roman Catholic characteristics of the province could not fail to have repercussions on the development and attitudes of the labour movement there. By granting to the provinces a hroad area of jurisdiction in the field of labour relations, the Canadian constitution has created a unique juridical setting for subsequent union activity. A number of unusual measures, coupled with the specialized orientation of those responsible for administering labour legislation, tend to give a distinctive stamp to union organization and policies, and even to the spirit of their leaders and members. Furthermore, the degree of industrialization, the size of businesses, and the employers' attitude towards unions give a specific colouring to trade369 370 GERARD DION unionism in any setting. All these factors taken together create a frame of reference which has brought into existence in the province of Quebec an original union movement likely to develop in somewhat different fashion from that which can be observed in the other Canadian provinces. The present article is devoid of scientific pretensions and does not seek to examine in any thorough way Quebec trade-unionism and all its problems: it proposes instead to limit its critical examination to a particular moment in the development of the labour movement in the province. It is our contention that for reasons which are both external and internal Quebec unionism is passing through what may be the most critical period of its history. One must not, however, dramatize the situation unduly. The labour movement is established in the province of Quebec with every indication of permanence. There is no doubt that its achievements in the matter of professional standards and its advances in the area of social legislation are considerable, and that these have a continuing impact not only on the workers, both unionized and non-union, but upon the total population . Yet at the present time, without wishiug to minimize or depreciate the very real influence of the labour movement in Quebec, we must state that this influence is greatly hampered by two considerations that create a tragic situation and demand careful study. On the one hand, trade-unionism encounters in certain powerful quarters an opposition which, although latent, nevertheless effectively blocks its normal development and prevents orderly union activity at various points in our system of labour relations. On the other hand, despite all appearances, neither in its nature nor in its effect on the ecouomic aud social fronts does Quebec trade-unionism emerge as a unified force. The world of organized labour is very much weakened by internal divisions. I Trade-unionism is universally considered to be a normal institution in a democratic industrial civilization. It enjoys legislative recognition everywhere and is indispensable to the smooth functioning of labour relations. An outgrowth of the will of the workers, it represents their interests with respect to their employers, to public authority, and to the total population. Quebec legislation is similar to that found throughout the country. Unions have been established...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 369-385
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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