Accueil » 49-4 ( 1994) » Tendances récentes de la négociation collective dans l'industrie du papier au Québec

Tendances récentes de la négociation collective dans l'industrie du papier au Québec

Reynald Bourque et Claude Rioux


Cet article examine les développements récents de la négociation collective et de l'organisation du travail dans l'industrie québécoise du papier. L'analyse des négociations menées ces dernières années par les syndicats du papier affiliés à la CSN révèle le caractère central des stratégies de flexibilisation du travail chez les employeurs, et de protection de l'emploi du côté syndical. La flexibilité fonctionnelle constitue l'aspect essentiel des changements en cours dans cette industrie depuis la fin des années 1980, les employeurs cherchant à améliorer l'efficacité productive par une rationalisation des tâches et une réduction des emplois. Dans certaines usines, la réorganisation du travail a suscité un renouveau de l'action syndicale à travers l'implication des salariés et de leur syndicat dans la gestion de l'entreprise.


The paper industry plays a leading role in the Canadian economy, both because of the number of persons it employs and the value of exports it generates. This industry is often the source of the only major economic activity in small remote communities, particularly in Quebec. While it has maintained its leading role in the Canadian economy, the paper industry faced severe financial difficulties in the 1980's due to an accelerated rate of technological change, more restrictive environmental regulations and increased international competition. These changes have influenced industrial relations policies and practices in the industry.

Many recent agreements introducing significant changes in the traditional organization of work have been concluded by unions affiliated with the Federation of Pulp and Paper Workers (FTPF-CSN) representing about one third of the unionized employees in the industry in Quebec. In most cases, the agreements were negotiated under difficult conditions due to the economic and financial crisis affecting major employers in the industry. Those agreements involved substantial modifications in work rules and important reductions in the work forces of several mills. These latter were achieved through early retirements and attrition.

An analysis of recent collective negotiations conducted by unions affiliated with the CNTU in the Quebec paper industry reveals the importance of job flexibility for employers and of job security for unions. Functional flexibility associated with work reorganization has been the focus of negotiations concluded in this industry since the mid-1980's. Employers were looking for a means of improving the efficiency of production through job reductions and the rationalization of work practices. Current changes in work organization have directly affected both the nature and content of tasks performed by workers as well as the traditional role of unions. In a few cases, the reorganization induced a renewal of collective action through the involvement of workers and their union representatives in plant management.

Craft workers were the first to be affected by this reorganization that was later extended to production employees. However, these changes did not lead to a deskilling of craft workers since the transfer of marginal maintenance tasks to production operators did not affect core tasks in the crafts. The acceptance by unions of flexibility in return for early retirement plans, training programs and protection against technological change, reflects a readiness on their part to tie work effort to job security. This compromise is considered by unions to be a more acceptable solution to current economic problems than are salary reductions or reduced job security.