Challenging labour relations environment to continue in 2016, but few labour disputes expected

Priorities of Millennials becoming increasingly important for unions and management

OTTAWA, Jan. 7, 2016 /CNW/ - Another year of modest economic growth in Canada is expected to challenge the labour relations environment in 2016, according to The Conference Board of Canada's Industrial Relations Outlook 2016. The public sector in particular will be constrained by ongoing emphasis on fiscal restraint.

"Increased economic uncertainty, along with changes in technology and operating environments in the last few years have made it difficult for unions and management to develop and maintain stable relationships and this is expected to continue in 2016," said Lynn Stoudt, Vice-President, Leadership and Human Resources Research, The Conference Board of Canada. "Faced with uncertainty due to a low growth economy, both unions and management will likely tread carefully and focus on relationship-building."


  • Greater focus on relationship-building will be key next year as the uncertain economic environment will affect collective bargaining.
  • Labour relations in the public sector will be constrained by emphasis on fiscal and wage restraint.
  • An aging workforce is causing a shift in priorities for both employers and labour.
  • The priorities of the millennial generation will drive demands at the bargaining table, and unions will need to engage the younger generation to meet succession planning needs.

While wage increases, which are expected to remain modest for another year, continue to be the top barrier to negotiations for both labour and management survey respondents, both parties are also concerned with the likelihood of adversarial bargaining and good faith negotiations. However, the majority of unions and labour organizations surveyed indicated that they do not expect work stoppages to occur in 2016.

Business competitiveness and productivity will be top of mind for management for negotiations in 2016, while employment security and health benefits will be the focus for unions.

The changing demographic profile of the population is also having an impact on labour relations in Canada. As baby boomers retire, Millennials are making up a larger share of the workforce and their expectations about work are becoming increasingly important considerations for labour and management. For example, the younger generation's emphasis on flexibility and work/life balance means that scheduling and work hours will be of greater focus in bargaining across all industries and sectors. This demographic shift is also creating additional pressures for unions, who must focus on engaging younger workers to ensure union renewal and future viability in the face of decreasing unionization rates.

The annual Industrial Relations Outlook, published by The Conference Board of Canada, provides 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, an industrial relations survey, and the proceedings of an annual roundtable among senior leaders from both labour and management.

The findings from the Industrial Relations Outlook 2016 will presented in a live webinar on February 9, 2016 at 02:00 PM EST.

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SOURCE Conference Board of Canada

For further information: Yvonne Squires, Media Relations, The Conference Board of Canada, Tel.: 613- 526-3090 ext. 221, E-mail:; Juline Ranger, Director of Communications, The Conference Board of Canada, Tel.: 613- 526-3090 ext. 431, E-mail:

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