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The effects of changes in labour legislation on strike activity in British Columbia : 1945-75 Fisher, Edward G.


This dissertation studies the effects of changes in labour legislation on strike activity in British Columbia during 1945-75. It develops two theories of strike activity and uses regression analysis where dummary variables model the effects of changes in labour legislation on strike activity. The two theories suggested economic determinants of strike activity which were used in the regression analysis. One theory, a strike-as-an-investment theory of bargaining under uncertainty, is applied to first agreement strikes and to contract renewal strikes. The other theory, a "pressure-valve theory" which envisages strikes as means for releasing pent-up frustrations, is applied to strikes during the term. Both theories build upon the theories that preceded them but modify their predecessors. For instance, each theory yields an economic determinant of strike activity that was not derived explicitly from the theories that preceded it. Methodologically, this research project departs in at least four ways from the research project it most closely resembles: the 1969 study by Ashenfelter and Johnson of the labour law-strike relationship in the United States. First, strike activity is classified by contract status: first agreement, contract renewal and during the term. Second, a different set of economic determinants is applied to strikes during the term, as opposed to strikes that issue from interest disputes. That is, the two theories suggest different sets of economic determinants. Third, contract expiry data were gathered and used to construct incidence measures of strike activity, such as the ratio of contract renewal strikes to expiries. (Incidence measures are empirical estimates of the probability that strikes will take place.) Fourth, not just one, but two hypotheses are tested concerning the effects of changes in labour legislation on strike activity. One hypothesis, the conventional hypothesis, tests whether or not the level of strike activity changes while the new statute is in force. The other hypothesis tests whether or not one- or two-year changes in the level of strike activity accompany statutory change. In addition, actual profit data were gathered and used as an indicator of firms' "ability to pay" and/or their ability to withstand strikes. It is inferred from the regression results that changes in labour legislation had some effect on strike activity. However, statistically significant effects were not obtained for the theoretically most appealing strike measures-incidence measures. There is some evidence that recent labour acts of British Columbia were associated with a relative decline in the number of strikes—particularly of strikes during the term and contract renewal strikes. These statutes were less interventionist, less adjudicative and, in practice, less punitive than former acts of British Columbia. Subjective assessments indicate, in particular, that there need not be a causal relationship between changes in labour legislation and the perceived decline in wildcat strikes.

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