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L'action patronale catholique au Canada français

L'action patronale catholique au Canada français

Gérard Dion

Volume : 12-4 (1957)


Catholic Employers' Organizations in French Canada

The social doctrine of the Church on professional organization is relevant to all social classes, and collective action by employers in the social and economic fields may well be one of the foremost necessities of our times. However, Pope Pius XII could deplore, as late as 1941, the scarcity of employers' associations, and His words are still true today, although possibly to a lesser degree. Positive action by groups of employers to rebuild or perfect the economic system in such a way as to satisfy the legitimate democratic aspirations of all production agents must take the place of past policies of blind and socially explosive obstruction.

In Canada, the employers' collective action is still relatively incoherent in both concepts and organization, and far behind employees' associations in those respects. Such a lag may be explained by individualism on the part of employers, and possibly by what they thought was a lesser need for association with other employers, since, during a not so distant past, they could rely on their individual strength, backed by government, the law, police and public opinion, to tackle workers' organisations with a good amount of success.

There is a further difficulty in organizing employers, which arises from the multiplicity and complexity of their objectives, as compared to those of employee's associations. The latter deal with individuals, while the former more often than not group collective entities (the corporations represented by "management"). Furthermore managements have to face many problems beside employer-employee or union-management relations, for instance problems of a technical, financial or commercial nature. Some associations offer information and/or services to their members in these and other fields; others represent employers in dealing with government authorities and the public. Still others possess typical union characteristics and represent their members at the bargaining table. Hence the difficulty of building coherent employers' associations with such a broad array of purposes and activities.

To promote the economic, financial, legal and commercial interests of Canadian business concerns, the Canadian Manufacturers' Association is rather well organized, with provincial branches and local sections in the main cities and towns It does not bargain directly with labour unions, but puts pressure on legislators so that they take full account of the employers' viewpoints in the union-management field.

As for employers' associations involved in labour-management relations, some fifty are active in the Province of Quebec alone. They lack co-ordination, however, and are not grouped under one big association. Some industries are particularly well organized in this respect, namely building, shoe and printing. The 1934 Collective Agreement Act of Quebec has fostered the creation of a good number of employers' organizations in industry, trade and the services.

Employers' unions which are officially inspired by the social doctrine of the Church are not numerous. Covering the whole province are the Federations of School Boards, Barbers, Builders' Associations, Retailers, and so on. In the St-Hyacinthe diocese, an association of religious institutions and parish boards bargains with labour unions before signining collective agreements. In and around Quebec City, and thanks to the efforts of Bishop Charles-Omer Garant, auxiliary of Quebec, employer's trade unions gather over a thousand business concerns, in the Building Industry, in Trade, in Hospital Services, Metals, Truckers, Radio and TV Technicians, and so on.

Finally, a new type of employer organization has recently appeared in the Province of Quebec, which does no bargaining as such, but whose role it is to train and educate employers and management people. Such an employers' movement has two distinct branches: the Association professionnelle des industriel, founded in 1943, and, in the Quebec District, the Centre des industriels chrétiens. It should play an important part in training new generations of business leaders to the co-operative tasks ahead!