"Fairness and balance"

"Fairness and balance?": The politics of Ontario's labour relations regime, 1949-1963


This thesis explores the creation and administration of the Ontario Labour Relations Act (OLRA) and the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) between 1949 and 1963. In so doing, it examines the role played by business and organized labour in shaping labour relations in post-war Ontario. The thesis challenges conventional arguments put forward by industrial pluralists that the acceptance of collective bargaining by post-war governments equitably balanced the relationship between unions and business.

In making this case, the thesis argues that the OLRA was structured by business and the close relationship it maintained with the Progressive Conservative governments of George Drew, Leslie Frost and John Robarts. In this regard, the entrenchment of collective bargaining in Ontario was closely aligned with the class interests of Ontario businesses. The close relationship that business maintained with the provincial government also worked to limit the discretionary power of the OLRB. Although the OLRB was originally intended to ensure impartiality and fairness in regulating trade union freedoms, its discretionary power was eroded by business pressure. In order to challenge the OLRB, business was able to appeal to the courts in order to challenge the expertise and jurisdiction of the Board. These challenges led to an increasing judicialization of the Board and limited its ability to extend trade union freedoms. Ultimately, these pressures suggested that the politics of class and class struggle shaped the structure of post-war legislation in Ontario.

 

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