L'auteur de cet article qui possède une expérience de quatorze ans dans les relations patronales-ouvrières au service de l'Association des Marchands détaillants du Canada, Québec, Inc. analyse succinctement les causes du malaise qui sévit actuellement dans le commerce de détail de la province de Québec et propose des remèdes.
Employer's Outlook on Unionism
Up to now, in the retail trade, the employers' experience of collective labour negotiations has been limited almost exclusively to the decrees.
The negotiation of individual agreements in the establishments creates difficulties causing conflicts which in turn are obstacles in the creation of harmonious relations.
The analysis of these conflicts leads us to establish the following facts. On one hand, the employer used to dictate to his personel his own working conditions without any other interference than that of the State, refuses to accept the idea of being obliged to deal with the representatives of his employees. His first reaction is one of defence. He misunderstands why his employees have decided to join a union and considers that by doing so they are not being loyal to the enterprise. Instead of accepting the union as a reality and negotiating with it, he begins to fight it by finding reasons to get rid of the workers belonging to the union.
On the other hands the workers in trade are trying to improve their situation at the rythm of their fellow-workers in industry, by joining unions. The difficulties which the union finds in negotiating an agreement as well as the perspective of an ever-possible dismissal brings them to disregard their union. From this there is a reaction of the union leaders and measures taken by them to hold their members and maintain the existence of the union.
The employer has no objection to the decree which puts all his competitors on the same basis as himself by establishing identical wages and hours of labour in all the enterprises in the same district, but he refuses to negotiate individual agreements which place him on an unequal basis. On the other hand, the decree is detrimental to the union; for example, the employees are not forced to belong to the union to benefit from the advantages that this decree gives them. Because of this lack of interest on behalf of the employees covered by the decree, it is weakened and even rendered invalid.
In view of this situation the Federation des employés de Commerce has obtained the cancellation of about ten decrees and has recommended to all its affiliated unions to negotiate in the future either a general agreement before the decree is put in force or individual collective agreements higher than the decree, or individual collective agreements without the decree.
In all these collective agreements an attempt is made to introduce clauses of union security in addition to the economic clauses.
The insecurity of the union has become the stumbling-block of the decrees.
The employer does not want to accept either collective agreement or union security but he is willing to accept the decree; the union replies by requesting union security in order to keep on with the decree.
The problem of labour relations in trade has two other aspects which cause conflicts. The unions have a tendency to compare the conditions of trade to that of industry and to treat them in the same way. The collective agreement should not be applied to a group restricted to a locality but should extend over a whole economic region.
It must not be concluded from this account, that in the retail trade there is only stained relations. There are happily some exceptions.
An education must be made on the side of the employers in order to get them to understand unionism and on the side of the employees so that they avoid profiting from certain situations to dictate their conditions instead of negotiating.
The interest of the retail trade lies in cooperation and not in struggle.