Accueil » 34-1 ( 1979) » Règles du jeu et rapport de force dans les secteurs public et parapublic québécois

Règles du jeu et rapport de force dans les secteurs public et parapublic québécois

Jean Boivin

Résumé

Dans cet article, l'auteur analyse les principales modifications apportées au régime de négociation collective dans les secteurs public et para-public québécois. Après avoir affirmé que le rapport de force est au coeur même des relations du travail dans les sociétés industrielles et que la forme privilégiée que revêt l’institutionnalisation de ce rapport de force dans les pays occidentaux est la négociation collective, il s'interroge sur les conséquences de la transposition de ce mécanisme dans le secteur public. Il rappelle brièvement l'évolution historique de la négociation collective dans les secteurs public et para-public québécois et analyse la philosophie de base de la Commission créée en juillet 1977 par le gouvernement pour étudier le régime des négociations collectives en vigueur. Constatant que les principales modifications introduites par le législateur en juin 1978 s'inspirent de cette philosophie de base, il les situe par rapport aux positions exprimées par les parties syndicales et patronales devant la Commission et par rapport aux problèmes rencontrés dans les négociations antérieures.

Abstract

The New Legislative Framework for Collective Bargaining in the Province of Québec’s Public Sector

The author analyses the major recent amendments to collective bargaining in Québec's public and para-public sectors.

In most Western countries, collective bargaining is the accepted form of institutionalized industrial conflict. Originally developed by specialized workers in the private sector, collective bargaining was extended during the i960's to employees in the public and para-public sectors. When we speak of "règles du jeux" in these sectors, we normally mean those governing collective bargaining.

The presence of a balance of power between the parties is certainly one of the most important features of the collective bargaining process. We thus consider the power relationship, as a dynamic process by which the parties try to impose costs on each other in order to attain specific objectives. While such costs in the private sector, are mainly economic and directly assumed by the parties, in the public sector economic costs are assumed both by unionized employees and the public, but not by the employer (government). The employer's cost is political, the result of public opinion.

The evolution of collective bargaining in the public and para-public sectors led the Québec government to create a Commission of enquiry to revise the collective bargaining System.

Initially benefitting from the favorable climat of the « Revolution tranquille », unionized employees in these sectors found a sympathetic ear in both public opinion and the provincial government. Profiting also by decentralized bargaining structures, which made conflicts easier to support by the population, they proceeded to improve their conditions of employment, rendering them comparable to those of the private sector.

However, around the mid 1960's the centralisation of bargaining structures, the loss of public sympathy, the rationalisation of governmental expenses, combined with the changing attitude of Québec governments towards unions, made collective bargaining take a new direction which led the government to create the above mentioned Commission.

The Martin-Bouchard report's philosophy

There are three major topics around which all the other points revolve:

1. The overall development of the government's role since 1960: the Commission^ members directly link the new, crucial role played by the State in the social and economic development of Québec from 1960 on, with the restructuring of labour relations in the public and para-public sectors ;

2. The summary of legislative developments emphasizes the broadly-accepted philosophy underlying the labour code as well as the caracteristics of the public sector ;

3. Finally, as the central preoccupation of the report, the Commission's members come to grips with the presence of the state in negotiations. Theyconsider it impossible to distinguish between the government's roles of employer and legislator. They also confirm the political character of negotiations in this sector.

The basic philosophy expressed by the Commission's members permits us to point out the limits of their recommendations. Since they set out to maintain both the basic philosophy of the Labour Code and the particular nature of the State as an employer, they are unable to suggest a fundamental revision of the collective bargaining System in the public and para-public sectors.

What the government retained from the Report

It is certain that the government seriously took into account the under-lying philosophy of the Martin-Bouchard report as can been seen in the amendments to the following pieces of legislation

— Bill 50: The Civil Service Act.

— Bill 55 : An Act Respecting the Organization of the Management and

Union Parties in View of Collective Bargaining in the Sector of Education, Social Affairs and Government Agencies.

— Bill 59: An Act to Amend the Labour Code.

The new legislation thus created, is essentially a strengthening of thestatus quo, as justified by the report itself.

Bill 55 refers back to the underlying principles of Bill 95.

Bill 50 contains the implementation of one of the main suggestions of the report, that concerning the non-negotiability of certain questions.

Bill 59 is derived also from the philosophy of the report, except that it provides for a more flexible framework of collective bargaining and delimitation of essential services than that suggested by the Commission.

In conclusion, the author postulates questions concerning three particular aspects of the new criteria:

— the long-run consequences of the considerable governmental control over collective bargaining ;

— the scheduling of negotiations ;

— the maintaining of essential services.

The author concludes that the recent legislative changes are designed to bring the parties to function according to basic but minimal guidelines.

As a result, it is the attitudes of these parties that will determine the practical functioning of the System.