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Le système des relations du travail chez les enseignants du secteur public québécois

Le système des relations du travail chez les enseignants du secteur public québécois

Jean-Marie Rainville

Volume : 27-3 (1972)


Labour Relations in the Quebec Public School System

This is a study of the relationship between the Québec administrative school system at the elementary and secondary levels, and the teachers' union militancy in a Regional School in the Greater Montréal area.

The hypothesis utilized to analyze this relationship is that suggested by Frederick Herzberg and Chris Argyris. Both of them say in substance that if an administrative organization does not succeed in giving an individual his personal identity, and frustrates him, the union will do it. However, the alternative point of view that the members of a union might pursue objectives in conflict with those of the organization is not discussed in their theoretical framework. This theoretical omission falls in line with two more or less explicit assumptions of their administrative theories : not only is the organization reduced to an autonomous entity, but it is assumed to be in a state of equilibrium with the society. This latter assumption is reflected in the hypothesis concerning the relationship between organization and union.

The author submits that this theoretical limitation renders Herzberg's and Argyris' conceptual framework inadequate for the study of an administrative organization in a situation of social change.

As a matter of fact, the school system of the Province of Quebec represents such a situation. During the last decade, education was taken over as the responsibility of the State in order to provide equal access to quality education to all. In addition, the union itself has shifted its power locus from the local to the provincial level. This means that the decision-making power of the industrial relations system is no longer at the local level. Besides these shifts, a new group of teachers, better educated than the older ones, and sharing professional attitudes, has entered the educational system as agents of social change.

The specific hypothesis of our study is that the bureaucratization of the education system would be a cause of maladjustment for the teachers aspiring to professional status. This situation would be a source of tension or conflict between them and the administrators. If the school system remains in a state of equilibrium with the society, this should increase significantly the teachers' union militancy.

The teachers sharing strong professional attitudes confirm this hypothesis, but at the elementary level only. Those at the secondary one, where the school is more complex — more bureaucratized — than at the elementary level, the teachers who have stronger professional attitudes, tend to reject the whole system of industrial relations and use the union as an instrument to promote their political aspirations in the French-Canadian society.

In other words, if the union, at the elementary level, can still be used as a mechanism for institutionalizing tension or conflict between teachers and administrators, the system of authority of the school continues to be recognized as legitimate. Because of that, the school organization might be seen in a state of equilibrium with the society. This is not the situation at the secondary level. As a result, the militancy of the most « professional » teachers is oriented toward a political type of action in the society.

In each case, the teachers suscribe to specific goals for the union in line with their observed behavior : for instance, at the elementary level, they would be satisfied if the union could preserve the status quo between them and the administrators ; on the other hand, at the secondary level, they want the union to control the administrative system of the school.

However, at the secondary level one significant sign tends to show that the school system is in search of a certain equilibrium with the society.

This kind of analysis underlines the theoretical need to take into account the relationship between organization and society and to measure the nature of this relationship in order to define in depth the way in which a group of individuals seek to adjust themselves to an organization not only in terms of social change but also in terms of social stability.