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April 1, 1984 -

At the end of January the federal government announced the establishment of the Canadian Labour Market and Productivity Centre, a cooperative venture between business, labour and government. The Centre has been given a budget of $27-million, spread over the next four years, and the task to examine the critical issues of productivity, labour market requirements and employment growth in Canada, in view of our need to remain internationally competitive.

The Centre's steering committee, made up of representatives from business, labour and the federal government (and co-chaired by Shirley Carr, vice-president of the Canadian Labour Congress, and Thomas d'Aquino, president of the Business Council on National Issues), has surprised everyone at its ability to reach a relatively quick agreement on the Centre's terms of reference.

Business and labour agree that Canada needs a centre like this, and unions particularly welcome the chance to examine some of their own concerns about productivity and its effect on unemployment. Said Carr: "For the first time we are going to be able to go onto the shop floor and find out what the problems are, what the needs of the work force are and what the needs of the corporate community area—we didn't have that opportunity before" (Financial Post, February 25, 1984).

Business and government have publicly expressed the need for a move away from the adversarial approach to industrial relations in Canada. Overcoming labour's traditional suspicion about raising productivity and efficiency seems to be a major step, but is only significant if the Centre's labour representatives have the backing of the union movement. At a symposium on "The Future of Unions" held in Toronto on March 30, Canada's UAW leader Bob White stated that labour must preserve the adversary system in order to protect the hard-won gains of the past, and to guarantee their future survival. While unionists cling to this position there is little chance that the Centre will succeed in solving any of the problems that plague our economy.