Labour movement in Canada at a crossroads
Link to publication: http://www.conferenceboard.ca/e-library/abstract.aspx?did=5906
News release 14-57
OTTAWA, Dec. 11, 2013 /CNW/ - Amid an acrimonious labour relations
environment, more than half-a-million public sector workers will be
involved in collective bargaining in 2014. This mix of factors could
lead to contentious negotiations between governments and their
employees next year, according to The Conference Board of Canada's Industrial Relations Outlook 2014: Back to Basics for the Labour
"There is potential for volatility in public sector bargaining in 2014,
because the union movement sees legislative attempts to restrict
bargaining rights, intervention in labour disputes, and efforts to
overhaul long-standing benefits—such as sick leave—as attacks on public
servants," said Karla Thorpe, Director, Leadership and Human Resources
"Especially in the public sector, the bargaining tone may be more
negative and unions less willing to compromise. This climate likely
makes it more difficult to address mundane workplace issues that would
normally be dealt with pragmatically at the bargaining table."
Federal government workers and workers in Ontario's broader public
sector are among the key employee groups bargaining next year.
The "tone" of negotiations, particularly in the public sector, may be
more negative —and unions less willing to compromise—in 2014.
The percentage of employers stating that wages are the bargaining
priority has increased from 55 per cent last year to 60 per cent in
The labour movement in Canada is at a crossroads. Although the overall
number of Canadian workers represented by organized labour is rising,
unionized workers now comprise 31 per cent of the labour force, down
from the peak of about 34 per cent in the 1980's. Organized labour is
increasingly dominated by public sector unions; just 17 per cent of the
workforce in the private sector is unionized.
"If the labour movement wants to grow its ranks, it must go back to
basics—that means organizing more workers in more industries. Sectors
such as business services have seen the greatest job growth since the
recession, but unions have not had notable success organizing these
workplaces. And unions have made few inroads among employees working
for smaller employers, independent contractors, and contingent
workers," said Thorpe.
Average base pay increases for unionized workers in 2014 are projected
to be 1.5 per cent in the public sector and 2.2 per cent for the
private sector. Since governments will be reticent to offer increases
as they struggle to bring down deficits, wages may be a key issue in
public sector negotiations.
The annual Industrial Relations Outlook, published by The Conference Board of Canada, is intended to provide a
comprehensive overview of issues that may influence labour relations
and collective bargaining in Canada over the coming year. The outlook
is based on Conference Board of Canada research and the proceedings of
an annual roundtable among senior leaders from both labour and
The Conference Board will host a 60-minute webinar on the Industrial Relations Outlook 2014, on February 19, 2014.
SOURCE: Conference Board of Canada
For further information:
Yvonne Squires, Media Relations, Tel.: 613- 526-3090 ext. 221