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The legality of the new industrial relations Jamieson, Eugene Christopher


This paper examines the extent to which industrial relations innovations stressing individual employee participation in workplace decision-making conflicts with labour law in the United States of America and Canada. It begins with an overview of the economic imperatives facing North American business enterprises which compel them to adopt industrial relations innovations stressing employee-involvement in decision-making. The overview also highlights the potential conflict between these innovations emphasizing individual employees and labour law which emphasizes collective relations with employees. Next, the paper details the economic landscape that makes innovation necessary in industrial relations. The paper then describes the operation of specific innovations: Quality of Working Life Programs, quality circles, joint labour-management committees and semi-autonomous work groups. The paper emphasizes the need to examine the relationship between these innovations and labour law in historical context. Thus, the paper next details the history of fundamental elements in North American collective bargaining which cause particular tension for these industrial relations innovations: the exclusion of managerial personnel from collective bargaining, a trade union's exclusive bargaining agent status, and the prohibition of employer domination of or interference with trade unions. Next, the paper examines in depth the American and Canadian legislation and jurisprudence surrounding these doctrines. This results in predictions as to the extent to which these doctrines render illegal certain aspects of the industrial innovations. The paper concludes that there is a strong potential for conflict between labour law and these innovations.

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