Accueil » 49-1 ( 1994) » L'organisation du monde patronal au Québec : un portrait diversifié

L'organisation du monde patronal au Québec : un portrait diversifié

François Delorme, Régis Fortin et Louis Gosselin


En s'appuyant sur une classification centrée sur le degré d'implication par rapport à la négociation collective des conditions de travail, cet article présente la diversité du monde patronal québécois et il en expose certaines composantes. Il traite aussi des mouvements professionnels dans leur ensemble, parfois assimilés à tort aux organisations d'employeurs. Il montre également, données numériques à l'appui, l'importance des divers regroupements recensés et la difficulté, dans certains cas, de les associer à une seule catégorie.


The purpose of this paper is to present a classification of employers' associations in the province of Quebec. The criterion used for this classification is the level of involvement of these associations in the collective bargaining process. Although arbitrary, this criterion allows us to subdivide these associations into five different types, to bring out their individual interests and to define the role of more than 570 employers' associations in the province of Quebec. The present article does not pretend to make an assessment as to the efficiency of employers' associations, but is simply trying to present an overall structural view.

Starting from the highest level of involvement, five types of associations were identified : employers' unions; vertical or horizontal employers' associations; economie promotion associations; business associations; professional associations. The latter are sometimes wrongly identified with employers' associations. Each type of association is defined according to its specialization, level of intervention, representatives, membership and involvement in labour relations. The associations pertaining to each of these categories are identified and an evaluation of their size and human resources, made in 1992, gives a good idea of their impact on the environment. Employers' unions are defined as employers' associations belonging to a same branch of activity and practicing a collective action in labour relations. Acting as representative of their members in the negotiation, they will sign labour agreements in their name. The juridical extension of an agreement by decree, generally considered as peculiar to Quebec and unique in North America, sometimes leads to the creation of one or several employers' unions. For example, the Guilde des manufacturiers de vêtements de mode du Québec and the Fédération des commissions scolaires du Québec are defined as employers' unions.

The vertical and horizontal employers' associations are made up of enterprises dealing either in the same field or in several branches of activity. Their objectives are to answer their members economic, fiscal and social concerns and to represent their general interests before the authorities. An employers' association is called vertical when its membership comes from the same branch of activity, as in the case of the Association des industries forestières du Québec. The horizontal employers' associations gather enterprises with a common characteristic but which are not necessarily working in the same branch of activity, such as the Association des employeurs de la Baie James, or the Association des manufacturiers du Québec. Nearly all branches of the manufacturing activity are represented by one or several employers' associations, whether vertical or horizontal. Their mandate is varied and includes : representation of the industry's interests before the Government, preparation of publicity campaigns, realization of studies on the labour market or on products, scientific research, etc.

Economic promotion associations seek to defend and to develop the business world. They exercise a significant role in politics. They intercede with the Government on behalf of their members and they occasionally serve as advisers within committees or government bodies. Besides the immediate interests of their members, the economic promotion associations often convey opinions inspired by the free enterprise System. The Chambers of Commerce are probably the best example of this type of association. Most of Quebec's municipalities have one. The Conseil du patronat du Québec (C.P.Q.) is also an important economie promotion association. The C.P.Q. soon became the main authorized representative of management groups for Quebec's Government, mainly because of its effective representation and philosophy based on the concerted action of social partners.

Business associations are organizations which tend to give their members services related to the product market. They are often composed of buyers' groups such as the Groupe Rona-Dismat Inc. or the Épiceries Metro-Richelieu Inc. These associations make it possible for their members to buy as a group from suppliers, to convey the image of a well-known brand on a large territory or to improve their achievements in management. It thus allows them to improve their share of the market. Producers' associations, mainly related to the agricultural field, are also part of this category. Their task is the organization of marketing of their products in a more orderly fashion, mainly by mutual planning. The main objective of these associations is to secure a reasonable income for their members by negotiating with buyers who themselves are often associated.

Professional associations are mainly preoccupied with further training for their members and promotion of a profession or trade. Their chief characteristic is to focus on the individual, mainly in respect with the development of knowledge, skills and standards of practice, whatever the status of this person in the organization (self-employed, management personnel or wage-earner, affiliated or not to a certified union). Even though professional associations cannot be identified with employers' associations, they are sometimes connected to the employers' world because of their influence on public policies regarding the development of the professions or trades concerned and, occasionally, the control of marketable services.

In the province of Quebec, some professional associations have the status of a professional corporation. An example of this is the Corporation professionnelle des comptables agrées du Québec. There are forty-one associations of this type in Quebec. On the other hand, some professionals and workers may be part of an association without necessarily belonging to a professional corporation. Some of these associations have thousands of members. For example, the Association des courtiers d'assurance de la province de Québec has 8,000 members and the Association des professionnels en gestion des ressources humaines has 2,500 members.

The type of classification which has been selected provides a schematic representation of employers' organizations and professional movements in the province of Quebec. It shows that both employers' and workers' associations share similar goals, that is to defend their members' interests in a context where a correlation between the parties involved is essential to the development of society.

However, this classification is not hermetic. There are some grey areas surrounding the boundaries of each category and one must not be surprised to find the same entity in more than one association. This can be explained by the extent of their mission.

The diversity among the associations is also apparent in this classification and their importance varies. Because of the difference in their nature and membership, some employers' associations have much greater financial and human resources than others.

They also exert variable influence on the government and the media, thanks to the means at their disposal and to their reputation. Moreover, it is not easy for the investigator or the State to evaluate these associations, particularly the economic promotion associations and the vertical or horizontal employers' associations. Indeed, since their membership is not exclusive and may result in overlapping, the influence these associations have is not always easy to evaluate either, especially when their position is quite different from one to the other.