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Considérations sur l'arbitrage 1952-53

Gilles Beausoleil


Une première étude sur les décisions arbitrales dans le Québec, 1950-1952, a été publié antérieurement dans le numéro de mars dernier. Le même auteur essayait alors d'y déceler les principaux problèmes que considèrent les tribunaux d'arbitrage. Dans l'analyse précédente, les seules comparaisons possibles se faisaient avec les données des conventions collectives: dans cette analyse-ci l'auteur, compare le contenu des recommandations avec celles de l'an dernier.


Reflexions on Arbitration — 1952-53

The labour disputes which go to arbitration increase from year to year in the Province of Quebec. This is not necessarily an alarming fact because of the various factors which help to explain it. The union memberships as well as the agreements in force have increased considerably during recent years. The keener economic competition, the harder struggle for markets and the decrease in the •consumer demand have strengthened the resistance of employers to union demands. The lack of confidence of union leaders in governmental services certainly make the workers' side touchy and brings to arbitration some disputes that could have, in a more peaceful atmosphere, been settled by conciliation.

Among the union federations, the C.C.C.L. comes first with the highest proportion of arbitrations required by the unions affiliated with it. The grievances which have necessitated arbitration have increased because of the lack of technical training of the labour leaders, of the increasing complexity of the methods of production and ways of remuneration.

The arbitrations recommend working conditions inferior to current conditions in the industry or if they contain similar advantages, it is after a certain delay. This is what might be called the "theory of readjustment" to define the economic function of arbitration. The recommendations in regard to wages in 1952-53 make a good example: whereas during the two preceding years when wages in industry had increased rapidly, the increases proposed by arbitration had been inferior to them; during the last year, when a certain wage, stabilization was under way, the arbitration boards have recommended increases higher than the average increase in industry. Retroactivity which is the best instrument for readjustment in working conditions was also included more often in the past year.

The stipulations respecting holidays, hours of work and paid statutory holidays show the same tendencies as industry, but they are weaker or behind time. Only the arbitration recommendations for three weeks vacation require a shorter length of continuous service than the clauses to be found in agreements.

The same phenomenon of increasing similarity between the proposals and arbitrations and the facts would be noticed in the union security clauses if it were not for the legalism which prevail against this point.

The arbitration boards keep to, in their recommendations, clauses of which the legality is recognized and refuse more and more to grant formulas of the compulsory type. The compulsory clauses are proposed less frequently and are refused in a large number of cases. The union requests are also less exacting on this point. The employers attempt to change the favourable clauses that they had accepted in previous agreements.

Union security raises the question of union liberty which is at the base of the labour laws of the Province. The object of the law is to protect the right of each worker to belong to the association of his choice. However, from the time a union is certified, it is recognized by the law as the sole bargaining agent in the enterprise concerned. During the whole year, except during the eleventh month of the agreement when the workers may change affiliation, the liberty of association for non-union workers consists in becoming, or not becoming, a member of the union legally certified or only in belonging to another union which for the present cannot act.

The rapid turnover of the presidents of arbitration boards and their members shows the difficulty in securing qualified persons. The Province of Quebec has not succeeded in forming a body of competent arbitrators, qualified to acquire the confidence of the workers and the employers. The solution is to enlarge their field of knowledge, to furnish them with standards and statistics which will permit them to judge in a clearer way and finally to be able to hold meetings where a common analysis of the problems would help them to render more acceptable awards.

The length of arbitration procedures is also another aspect to which some attention should be directed. Many boards take longer than the delay of three months fixed by law to give their award. The causes of delay should then be examined and a system organized which would result in more rapid procedure.

The wording of the awards is often vague. The objects which have been discussed are badly defined or not sufficiently specified. Perhaps a uniform method of awards would help indicate the exact extent of points under litigation and would make it possible to carry on more extended research.

Research of a scientific character should be undertaken on the function of arbitration.

The study of cases would be valuable in determining the real objects in dispute in most arbitrations. At what point does arbitration constitute a notable step in the settlement of disputes, to what extent do the recommendations of the board serve as a basis or at least simplify the negotiations after arbitration? A systematic analysis after examination of methods used outside the Province, discussions and studies of similar problems would greatly help to come to a scientific method of procedure for solving labour disputes. It would be a sign of lack of responsibility to continue to allow to operate in such a way an arbitration system which often plays an important part in the settlement of disputes.