ABSTRACT

Imperial Oil has been Canada’s preeminent oil company throughout the twentieth century. There have been periods in which it has been larger than the petroleum industry’s second and third com­ petitors combined. Its 1997 net earnings were $847 million. First launched as a Canadian-owned company in the late 1800s, and deliberately named Imperial to signify its role as a bastion against foreign ownership, it was not long before the majority of the company was sold to Ameri­ can interests. Imperial Oil is an affiliate of Exxon Corporation, which holds almost 70 percent of its shares. Because of Imperial Oil’s dominant position in the Canadian petroleum industry, it has been a natural pattern setter for all kinds of human resource practices. Until a period of tur­ bulence in the 1990s threatened Imperial’s posi­ tion as the leading company, other industry managers tended to aspire to copy Imperial’s wages, benefits, and working conditions. Among oil companies, however, Imperial remains unique in its fervent commitment to a plan of nonunion representation first developed for the Rockefeller interests and practiced without interruption throughout Imperial since 1919.