AuthorGeoffrey England
One need not be a Marxist to agree with the fundamental tenet of
Marxist doct rine that the economic conditions of a society exert a tre-
mendously strong if not irresi stible inf‌luence on its laws, political
values, and commercial practices. This is certainly borne out by the
example of Canadian employment law. The cornerstone of the employ-
ment relationship — the individua l contract of employment — is gov-
erned by the general principles of contract law originally formulated in
a commercial context to facilitate the operation of f ree markets in the
production and distribution of goods and services. Unquestionably, the
application of free market pr inciples to the employment relationship
provides ma ny benef‌its to employers, employees, and society at large.
Today, no serious analysis would argue for the complete eradication of
these principles from t he employment relationship. Nevertheless, this
contractualist approach to the rel ationship creates serious problems
from the perspectives of each of t he affected parties.
The root of t hese problems is the imbalance of bargaining power
that favours employers over employees in most employment relation-
ships. For most employees, employment is offered on a “take it or leave
it” ba sis, and even after the contract has been formed, the employer
usually has its way in controlling the term s and conditions of the job.
Although it is true that t he pri nciples of contract l aw per mit the em-
ployee to decline an offer of employment on terms that he or she does
not like or to quit a nd sue for “constructive di smissal” if the employer
changes the ter ms of an existing contract, the pres sures of needing a

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