Capital: Ottawa
Population: 35.5m. (2014 est.)

Canada ratified ILO Convention No. 87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, 1948) in 1972. It ratified Convention No.98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining, 1949) in 2017.

Political history and economic overview - refer to full country profile in Trade Unions of the World.

The ‘Canadian model’ is characterised by mandatory union recognition by employers if a specified majority of ‘bargaining unit’ employees indicate their support for collective bargaining. Once certified, a union becomes the ‘exclusive bargaining agent’ for all employees in the bargaining unit; minority unions are not generally recognised in Canadian labour law. Strikes and lock-outs are prohibited during the term of a collective agreement and all disputes about the meaning or application of collective agreements are channelled into private labour arbitration. More recently, Canadian labour laws in various provinces led by right-of-centre, neo-liberal governments have been reformed in manners designed to impede union organising and collective bargaining.Various provinces imposed forms of wage freeze on public sector employees.

Back-to-work orders have been used to use the force of law to put an end to strikes. Various public services in numerous provinces have been declared ‘essential’ and were subjected to strike bans (the most egregious example of this type of interference manifested in the form of the Saskatchewan Public Services Essential Services Act, which permitted many public sector employers to ‘designate’ employees as ‘essential’ and ban them, personally, from striking. In some cases these regimes have already been successfully challenged. In 2015 the Supreme Court of Canada recognised that the right to strike is constitutionally protected as an element of collective bargaining within the concept of freedom of association in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, despite these positive developments, in late 2018, just one year after Canada ratified ILO C98, the federal government used back to work legislation to force an end to a postal workers strke, called over employer intransigence in bargaining.

The national centre today is the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), formed in 1956 by a merger of two older centres.The CLC has a membership of 3.2 million, and there are no other nationwide centres of equivalent strength. The Confederation of Canadian Unions (CCU) has in the region of 15,000 – 20,000 members, by comparison, although the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLC, which organisation is not well regarded by the CLC) has a membership of 65,986. There are, however, alternative centres based on French-speaking Quebec, the largest of which, the Confédération des Syndicats Nationaux (CSN) (English: Confederation of National Trade Unions) has some 325,000 members. The Centrale des Syndicats Démocratiques (CSD) (English: Congress of Democratic Trade Unions, CDU), another Quebec-based centre, has 73,250 members, and the Centrale des Syndicats du Québec (CSQ) (English: Quebec House of Labour) has 134,095. The CLC, CSD and CSN are affiliated to the ITUC. There are no WFTU affiliated centres.

Full details of the country's political history, the development of trade unionism, and contact and affiliation details for all national trade union centres can be found in ICTUR's in-depth global reference book: Trade Unions of the World.

Link to reportFull country profile: Canada, from Trade Unions of the World (2016)

Link to letterIntervention letter: back to work legislation to force an end to postal strike (2019)


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