Les médias font régulièrement référence au taux très élevé de syndicalisation au Québec qui ferait de la province un château fort du syndicalisme en Amérique du Nord. Cette opinion est fondée sur les estimations de la densité syndicale fournie par le ministère du Travail du Québec dans sa publication annuelle Les relations du travail. Une analyse critique des sources et de la méthodologie utilisée par cet organisme montre que ses évaluations depuis le début des années 1980 ont tendance à surestimer fortement la syndicalisation. Les estimés fournis par Statistique Canada (CALURA et enquêtes) permettent une meilleure approximation du taux de syndicalisation qui se situerait à environ 41 % en 1992. Parmi les provinces canadiennes, le Québec est dans le peloton de tête avec la Colombie-Britannique, mais derrière Terre-Neuve. Ce taux relativement élevé le place au dixième rang parmi les pays industrialisés en 1989.
The mass media and union leaders refer quite often to the high level of union membership in Quebec, which makes the province a stronghold of unions in North America. This opinion is largely based on the estimates of unionism provided by Quebec Ministry of Labour in its annual publication Les relations du travall. A critical analysis of the sources and methodology employed in this publication show that the ministry has overestimated by a considerable margin the Ievel of unionization since the beginning of the 1980s. The estimates published by Statistics Canada under CALURA and confirmed by household surveys are more reliable. CALURA reveals a union membership rate of 40.3% of the non-agricultural workforce in 1992. Our revised estimate, based on CALURA, but correcting certain deficiencies in the data, give a rate of unionization of 41.2%.
With a union density roughly similar to that of British Columbia, but less than that of Newfoundland, Quebec would be one of the most highly unionized provinces in Canada. Ontario lags behind and contributes strongly to a lowering of the overall level of union density in Canada. The Quebec rate is close to the Canadian average in manufacturing and transportation, but higher in construction and in the parapublic sector. This is the result of legislative gains made in the 1960s, when the provincial government guaranteed union security. With the exception of the construction industry, which was deregulated for a short period of time, these guarantees have not been eroded by subsequent provincial governments.
International comparisons of union density show that Quebec ranked tenth among industrialized countries in 1989. Unlike many of these countries, rates of union membership in Quebec and Canada did not fall in the 1980s. This was because of the strong legal protection which Canadian unions enjoyed. The union movement will nonetheless face strong challenges to its position in the 1990s. The high level of unemployment, the popularity of neo-liberal solutions, and the slow pace of unionization of employees in private sector services have all created an adverse environment for union organization.