OTTAWA, Dec. 14, 2012 /CNW/ - The "new normal" of collective bargaining
in Canada—modest economic prospects matched by modest expectations—may
provide a degree of certainty not seen in several years, The Conference
Board of Canada concludes in its Industrial Relations Outlook 2013: Embracing the "New Normal".
"We have been living in the "new normal" since 2009, but we are only now
realizing that we will not soon return to the buoyant growth enjoyed
before the recession," said Karla Thorpe, Director, Leadership and
Human Resources Research. "The bargaining climate has fundamentally
changed, and modest economic prospects matched by modest expectations
may encourage pragmatism rather than rhetoric at the bargaining table."
The Canadian and global economies face a period of slow near-term
growth. The Canadian outlook is exacerbated by a strong currency, tepid
productivity improvement, and demographic changes that will challenge
government spending and revenue capacity over the long term. Employment
growth in Canada has slowed this past year, reflecting ongoing employer
nervousness about the economic climate.
Average base wage increases for unionized workers in 2013 are projected
to be 1.8 per cent in the public sector and 2.1 per cent for the
private sector. Given the current social and economic climate, a
singular focus on increasing the union wage premium - currently down to
less than eight per cent - may be counterproductive for the labour
movement. Improving working conditions for workers and influencing
public policy may prove to be a more fruitful approach.
Governments across all jurisdictions continue to focus on reducing their
deficits and controlling public spending. Even after budgets are
balanced, public sector employment and compensation (where more than 70
per cent of workers are unionized) will be subject to increasing
Some of this pressure will come from scrutiny into public sector
pensions and benefits, which are often seen to be generous compared to
the private sector. Future public sector bargaining will undoubtedly
see these differences intensify.
Private sector bargaining outcomes will likely mirror the agreements
reached in the auto industry in 2012, with reduced wages and increasing
use of two-tier wage structures to make companies more competitive. At
the very least, the results of bargaining in the auto industry will put
downward pressure on wages in manufacturing and related industries.
This outlook is based primarily on The Conference Board of Canada's
economic, compensation, and industrial relations research, as well as
the discussion at an annual roundtable held with senior labour
relations practitioners from both management and unions.
The publication is available to Conference Board subscribers at www.e-library.ca.
Link to publication: http://www.conferenceboard.ca/e-library/abstract.aspx?did=5260
SOURCE: Conference Board of Canada
For further information:
Brent Dowdall, Media Relations, Tel.: 613- 526-3090 ext. 448