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Les comités paritaires de formation professionnelle au Québec : vers une plus grande coopération dans les relations du travail ?

Les comités paritaires de formation professionnelle au Québec : vers une plus grande coopération dans les relations du travail ?

Colette Bernier, Michèle Bilodeau et Jean-Noël Grenier

Volume : 51-4 (1996)


This article explores the extent to which the establishment of joint occupational training committees is contributing to the development of more cooperative labour relations. Quebec, like the rest of North America, has usually been ranked well behind most European countries as regards the establishment of mechanisms of concertation. More recently, however, a number of factors linked to the economie crisis and the coming to power of the Parti quebecois have stimulated the development of mechanisms of concertation. The creation of the Societe quebecoise de developpement de la main-d'oeuvre (SQDM) and the adoption of the Act to Foster the Development of Manpower Training (Loi favorisant le developpement de la formation professionnelle) should, in our view, speed up the establishment of joint occupational training committees. Although it is too early to evaluate their quantitative impact, our study examined seventeen existing committees in order to assess the extent to which they have contributed to the development of more cooperative labour relations.

The results of our case studies indicate that the context of economie crisis and increased competition has been the principal factor triggering the establishment of joint occupational training committees. The interest of employers in increasing workers' skill levels so as to meet the new requirements of production Systems, such as ISO certification norms, is the counterpart of the unions' search for greater job security.

However, at the sectoral level, the objectives are broad (e.g., the establishment of institutional training programs) and are aimed as much, if not more, at training the future work force than those who are already employed. Thus, sectoral committees are generally able to avoid conflicts linked to labour-management relations, whereas at the firm level concertation efforts more often affect the objects of negotiation (e.g., classification, promotions, seniority rights) and may create conflict. Consequently, it is not surprising that the existence of joint occupational training committees does not necessarily go hand in hand with the development of more cooperative labour relations. From our study emerge three general patterns of labour relations, of which the traditional pattern based on a mixture of cooperation and conflict dominates. In only one case out of the thirteen local committees studied were we able to make a direct link between the existence of a joint occupational training committee and the development of more cooperative labour relations. What can be concluded on the basis of seventeen case studies in which, despite the broad context of social change, traditional approaches appear to overshadow innovative ones ? We would argue that a number of adjustments are currently being made that nevertheless fit within the traditional framework of industrial relations in Quebec. More particularly, we would say that, after many years of opposing such change, Quebec unions seem to have agreed to tackle the question of work organization and, as a result, to give greater weight to occupational training within the overall System of job allocation. However, they remain strongly attached to the principle of bureaucratized management of employment based on negotiated rules, especially the seniority principle which remains fundamental.

Nevertheless, the situation may still change. In fact, in light of the SQDM's recent Sectoral Initiatives Policy (Politique d'intervention sectorielle), which seeks to encourage the creation of joint occupational training committees, it will be interesting to pursue the present analysis.