The reshaping of Canada's workforce and the related drop in
union density in the private sector is confirmed by numbers
recently released by Statistics Canada.
Today a union member is slightly more likely to be a female, and
working in an office, school or hospital. By contrast, factory
workers, miners and other blue collar trades have seen their union
memberships continue to fall over the past three decades.
The decline in Canada's unionization rate has been noted
since Statistics Canada began tracking it in 1981. The rate has
fallen from 37.6% of employees being unionized in 1981 to 28.8% in
The trends differ, however, based on gender. Over the span from
1981 to 2014, the union density for male workers dropped from 41%
to 27%. For female workers over the same period, the rate remained
relatively stable, varying between 30% and 32%.
There is also a notable decline in the unionization rate among
young workers. While this decline was also present among younger
female workers, the trend is most pronounced among younger males.
And the relatively constant overall rate for female workers is
based on an overall increase in he unionization rate for older
One factor contributing to the decline in unionization of
younger men is the employment shift away from industries and
occupations with high union density (such as construction and
manufacturing) and towards those with lower rates (such as retail
and professional services). The higher rates for older women are in
part attributable to their concentration in industries with high
union density, such as health care, education, and the public
These numbers reflect trends which are likely to continue. The
overall unionization rate within Canada's private sector (15.2%
in 2014) has been declining for over 30 years. This will continue
to be partially offset by high public sector union density (71.3%
in 2014). When taken together, the image of a "typical"
union member will continue to evolve.
The foregoing provides only an overview and does not
constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any
decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal
advice should be obtained.
Unfortunately, reasonable accommodation for employees in the workplace continues to be the source of significant litigation and even today we continue to see outrageous examples of employers behaving badly.
We are now beginning to see reported cases involving charges and subsequent fines laid against employers for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence.
On October 13, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada denied leave to appeal an Ontario Court of Appeal decision which ordered an employer to pay a former employee 37 months of salary and benefits following termination.
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