Canada’s industrial relations system faces a rapidly changing external environment in this last decade of the 20th century. Significant and far-reaching changes in our economic, political and legal environment are already being felt and even more changes appear to be on the horizon. The question squarely facing Canada’s industrial relations community is the extent to which these important changes will reshape our existing industrial relations order. This existing order, what I will refer to as the ‘old industrial relations order,’ has been with us since the 1940s. As we approach the year 2000, however, changes in the external environment will penetrate to the very roots of the ‘old industrial relations order.’
This essay explores the question of how much of this existing system will remain in its present form by the end of the present decade. It begins with an examination of some of the more marked characteristics of the industrial relations system that has served us, for better or worse, for close to half a century.