Peter A Allard School of Law

Rethinking Labour Law in the New World of Work

Nov 4, 2020

Professor Hastie’s current research focuses on exploring how labour law can evolve to meet the needs of workers in the 21st century. Her project stems from the concerning reality that access to unionization is increasingly out of reach for, especially, precarious workers in Canada who would most benefit from collective workplace representation, like unionization. Union coverage rates in Canada, particularly in the private sector, have been in steady decline in the past decades. Over the same time period, part-time and temporary labour has increased, and a general trend towards shedding direct and standard employment relationships has been documented across North America.

The result of these labour market shifts mean that fewer workers have the benefit of rights and protections afforded through labour and employment law, and increasing numbers of workers experience income and employment insecurity. Collective workplace representation, traditionally effected through unionization in Canada, has historically been understood as a powerful mechanism through which workers can advance their interests and improve their labour conditions. Yet, workers are facing increased difficulty in unionizing, given the ways in which the shifts in the labour markets have impacted the workplace. Increasing numbers of workers are formally excluded from unionizing where they are deemed to be independent contractors. Moreover, workers who are employed as part of a casualized workforce, or who are geographically dispersed, face significant obstacles in successfully unionizing under current labour law rules.

Professor Hastie’s existing research has examined various aspects of the current challenges that precarious workers face in accessing labour and employment rights in Canada, as well as the needs and interests of precarious workers that could be (better) served through entitlement and access to legal rights in the workplace.

Professor Hastie’s new project, “Collective Representation in the New World of Work”, aims to make collective workplace representation more accessible, suitable and effective for workers today. She investigates what a meaningful system of labour rights must account for, identifying both the normative values and material dimensions at stake for labour in the contemporary labour landscape. She looks to the development of non-union models of collective workplace representation in other jurisdictions, such as the United States, Germany, Japan and Australia, to consider new forms of collective workplace representation, and to evaluate their viability as bases for labour law reform in Canada.

Ultimately, Professor Hastie seeks to develop and propose concrete models for collective workplace representation for use in Canada. New collective workplace representation models will revitalize and increase worker power in an era characterized by increasing insecurity in the labour market in Canada. Through this, she hopes to contribute both to on-the-ground law and policy reform, and also to ongoing dialogue about the future of labour law in Canada and internationally.

Learn more about Professor Bethany Hastie.

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