Queen's University IRC

Labour Relations Foundations

Developing an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Program

The issue of racism and ongoing oppression of minority groups is well documented. Leadership must recognize their unconscious and implicit biases to begin to help organizations become inclusive. Leaders who are engaged will recognize inequities and will also recognize bias as well as disrespect and incivility. By addressing these issues through education and formal programs, leaders will help foster the development of others in overcoming historic barriers to both employment and customer service.

Covid-19 vaccinations and Workplace Rights

COVID-19 Vaccinations and Workplace Rights

More than one year ago the COVID-19 pandemic shut down most of the world. Such shutdowns gravely impacted many businesses, and otherwise shifted the landscape of working life for businesses that could legally remain open by providing working from home arrangements (when possible) or by requiring significant protective measures (for essential services). This article discusses legal issues and considerations relating to implementing requirements or policies around COVID-19 vaccinations in Canadian workplaces and other related solutions to consider when trying to protect the workplace from a COVID-19 outbreak.

What We Can Learn from the “Wall of Moms” Movement to Improve our Workplaces

What We Can Learn from the “Wall of Moms” Movement to Improve our Workplaces

I work as a conflict resolution practitioner and “workplace conflict capacity-builder”. I am a strong advocate of workplace community building and I consider myself and to be a multi-partial (rather than impartial) support to all members of my institution. I am also a leader in a department of gifted and diverse human beings. I know that when tough issues arise, a foundation of community will support sustainable resolutions and lasting collaborations. In our current political and pandemic culture, I have been thinking about how our workplace communities can be compromised because of distance and differences.

The Myth of Body Language as a Credibility Assessor

The Myth of Body Language as a Credibility Assessor

Workplace investigators and human resource professionals should be cautious of relying on the body language of a witness to evaluate their credibility during an investigation. Fact-finding investigations, especially in cases of harassment, at times turn into an evaluation of one person’s version of events versus another’s, or as some call it, the “he said, she said” dilemma. In these cases, assessing the credibility of the two parties may be the easiest way the investigator can come to any defensible determination relative to credibility.

Best Practices for Returning to the Workplace

Best Practices for Returning to the Workplace

There are many unanswered questions about Canadian workplaces as we look toward reopening offices. The well-established principles and guidelines that employers, unions and employees have followed for many years will certainly help navigate this process. That said, this pandemic takes us into new and uniquely uncharted waters that may well shift some or all of these principles as we move forward. This article will look at the frameworks in place today, as well as best practices for boldly going where few workplaces have gone before.

Reducing Participant Stress Before a Workplace Investigation

Reducing Participant Stress Before a Workplace Investigation

It is normal for participants in a workplace investigation to feel some anxiety, but too much worrying can create barriers to obtaining critical information, which is a challenge for investigators looking to build complete and thorough reports. Ensuring participants fully understand the process and their role in it can help alleviate unnecessary anxiety during the investigation. With a greater understanding of the process, participants can feel empowered to speak confidently in the interview and provide the investigator with the necessary information.

Practical Tips for Workplace Investigations

Evidence Collection: Practical Tips for Workplace Investigations

Workplace investigations have become commonplace across Canada. Many Canadian jurisdictions require that employers implement workplace harassment and discrimination policies, which often include mandatory investigation provisions. Whether or not investigations are legally mandated, it is sound practice for an employer to conduct an investigation when there may be potential workplace harassment, human rights violations, breach of company policy, criminal activity, security breaches, legal action, or media scrutiny.

Fireable Offences Without Defences

Fireable Offences Without Defences

Termination for ‘just cause’ (and without notice) is often described as the capital punishment of employment law.  Consequently, employers face a significant burden when trying to prove just cause at law. Arguing just cause for dismissal may be difficult, but not impossible, especially in circumstances involving dishonesty or lack of trust. Nevertheless, employers should always exercise caution when making just cause allegations, because a legally unsubstantiated just cause termination can be costly. If an arbitrator overturns an employer’s termination decision in a unionized environment, this can result in a decision that reinstates that grievor and provides him or her with significant back pay.

Workplace Harassment After #MeToo

Workplace Harassment After #MeToo

The #metoo movement has empowered many women who were the victims of unjust behaviour to come forward, although the movement has its own inequities by persecuting and often impacting the livelihood of the accused without due process, or any process whatsoever. This article will explore the complex considerations regarding sexual harassment in Canadian workplaces, consider the roles and obligations of all parties involved, and review the importance of investigations and due process in relation to workplace sexual harassment complaints. 

The Power of Cognitive Behavioural Techniques in the Workplace

The Power of Cognitive Behavioural Techniques in the Workplace

There is strong evidence of the effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to treat a host of symptoms and behaviours commonly associated with depression and anxiety disorders. In this article, I will discuss the application of CBT techniques to both return to work and performance improvement plans, for individuals whose work life has been impacted by these issues.

4 Strategies for Collective Bargaining in Today’s Economy

4 Strategies for Collective Bargaining in Today’s Economy

We have entered a challenging and difficult time for collective bargaining for both employers and unions. Shortly following the great recession in 2008, both management and unions reached deals relatively quickly, everyone recognizing the dramatic economic issues the parties faced at the time. From 2008 well into 2012, there was little change. Employers tried to deal with the reality of the recession, and unions waited for the anticipated rebound, assuming it would resemble almost all recessions of the past.

Breaking Bad News about Organizational Change

Breaking Bad News About Organizational Change

Getting the news out about an upcoming restructuring, merger or acquisition, layoff, or other major organizational change can be a challenge. No one wants to experience having their name ‘pop up’ in a new organization chart that is widely distributed online before receiving any direct personal communication from their boss.

The Path to Success for Organized Labour

The Path to Success for Organized Labour

Labour unions are at a critical time in history. Unions are working to engage the current membership and exploring new innovative communication strategies that are needed to reach the younger generation in a meaningful way. Gone are the days of the bulletin board as the primary sources of union news and updates.

Accommodating Mental Illness in the Workplace

Invisible Barriers: Accommodating Mental Illness in the Workplace

Mental illness is a leading cause of disability in Canada. In fact, at least 500,000 employed Canadians are not able to work due to mental health problems in any given week. Understanding and accommodating mental illness is an evolving area that requires a flexible approach. This article will discuss the key legal requirements and interesting related case-law related to workplace mental health issues.

Managing Emotional Reactions to Organizational Change

Top 5 Queen’s IRC Articles from 2015

Here are the most popular articles Queen's IRC released in 2015. 1. Managing Emotional Reactions to Organizational Change. 2. Workplace Bullying and Harassment: Costly Conduct. 3. An Inquiry into the State of HR in Canada in 2013: Executive Summary. 4. The Tough Work of Managing Change. 5. Human Rights and Human Wrongs: Our Continuing Need to Teach

The Future of Labour

The Future of Labour

The labour movement in Canada has a long and proud history of success and positive community involvement. Throughout the years however, union membership levels across North America have been on a steady decline.  Many would argue the decline in the ranks of unions is attributed to stronger labour laws protecting workers, less interest by the young workers entering the workforce and a more transient workforce demanding flexibility and merit over seniority.

Peter Edwards

Peter Edwards Delivers 2015 W. D. Wood Lecture

Peter Edwards, Vice-President Human Resources and Labour Relations at Canadian Pacific, delivered the 2015 W. D. Wood Lecture on November 6, 2015 at Queen’s University. Peter spoke about the future of work, the future of the labour movement and how technology will impact jobs. Peter urged the audience to think about how things like controlling trains remotely, driverless cars, and completely automated factories are going to profoundly change the world.

There is No Cookie Cutter Approach to Labour Relations

There is No Cookie Cutter Approach to Labour Relations

As an HR professional or senior leader, you spend years mastering the labour relations fundamentals.  Not the textbook fundamentals, but the behaviours, the actions, communication styles–the way you handle sensitive situations.  You log numerous failures, like the time you told the union that the grievance was invalid because they used red ink, the time you were new and mistook a seasoned union employee for a manager and accidentally told them your grievance strategy.

Our Continuing Need to Teach

Human Rights and Human Wrongs: Our Continuing Need to Teach

Francine had been disciplined before. She had been suspended for 3 days, for an angry outburst that she had in the shipping department. But this time was worse. Francine was in the cafeteria, finishing her break. Three co-workers sat down at the same table, and within minutes she began yelling and swearing at them. One of them began talking to her, trying to quiet her down. She threw her cup of tea in his face, and then left the room. Francine was terminated. The letter of termination cited the company anti-violence and harassment policies.

Costly Conduct

Workplace Bullying and Harassment: Costly Conduct

As media scrutiny over schoolyard and cyberbullying pervade the news, allegations of workplace harassment and bullying are on the rise. While the popularization of the terms “bullying” and “harassment” has both educated and empowered employees to assert the right to a respectful workplace, it has conversely sometimes resulted in overuse of the terms and meritless complaints in relation to reasonable management measures. Employers are left with the difficult task of managing all competing interests to ensure a safe, respectful and productive work environment.

A Collective Bargaining Success Story

Improve Your Negotiation Outcome By Learning Something New: A Collective Bargaining Success Story

Most people are familiar with the old adage that defines true insanity as doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result.  Then why, in labour relations, do we continue using the same processes and methods that have not yielded positive results for us in the past?  Well, some parties have learned this lesson and are trying new approaches in their search for win-win outcomes of negotiation.

Lori Aselstine

Inside HR at the Ontario Public Service

In April 2014, as Lori Aselstine began her retirement from the Government of Ontario, she sat down with Queen’s IRC to talk about her career, the HR profession and practising HR in an environment that is 85% unionized. Lori talks candidly about her experience rising through the ranks in the Government of Ontario, as well as the challenges and opportunities that come from working in labour relations for the government, which often plays the role of the employer and legislator.

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