Challenging environment sees both sides of the bargaining table willing to work together to meet employee needs in 2017

OTTAWA, Jan. 16, 2017 /CNW/ - Continued economic challenges across the country have organizations on both sides of the bargaining table concerned with job security and managing costs this year, according to The Conference Board of Canada's Industrial Relations Outlook 2017.  

"Despite sluggish economic growth and the impending expiration of a number of collective agreements, few work stoppages are expected in 2017 as many unions and employers appear prepared to work together where necessary to maximize benefits for employees," said Allison Cowan, Director, Leadership and Human Resources Research, The Conference Board of Canada.  


  • Top negotiating issues for employers in 2017 are wages, productivity, organizational change, and health benefits, while for labour, top issues are wages, employment security, and health benefits.
  • Unions continue to work to engage younger workers and are increasingly using social media for outreach.
  • Employers are focusing on fiscal restraint and affordability, and are looking to maximize productivity and accommodate employee needs while adapting to the economic climate.

Consistent with previous years, the labour relations environment remains fixed on wages for 2017. As a result, employers will be looking to shift pay and pension structures to rein in costs and maintain quality jobs for new and existing employees. Specific changes being sought by some unions include minimum hours, a higher minimum wage, and a reduction in the use of two-tier wage structures.

Overall, modest wage settlements of 1.5 per cent are projected for unionized employees in both the public and private sectors in 2017. Beyond wages, employers are looking to increase diversity in their workforces and manage potential labour shortages - for example, in the skilled trades.

Unions are expressing concern about the precarious nature of many positions in an increasingly service-oriented economy. Unions are also working to engage youth in the labour movement and provide education on the benefits of unionization while adapting to challenges brought on by technological change. Both employers and unions are increasingly using social media to reach this critical group of workers.

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 and the proceedings of an annual roundtable among senior leaders from both labour and management.

Join us on Wednesday March 8th at 2:00 pm EST for the Industrial Relations Outlook 2017 webinar.

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SOURCE Conference Board of Canada

For further information: Natasha Jamieson, Communications Coordinator, The Conference Board of Canada, Tel.: 613- 526-3090 ext. 307, E-mail:; Yvonne Squires, Media Relations, The Conference Board of Canada, Tel.: 613- 526-3090 ext. 221, E-mail:


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