Demands at bargaining table to be restrained in 2015: Report

Average pay hike for unionized workers forecasted at 1.5 per cent
|labour-reporter.com|Last Updated: 01/13/2015

Modest economic growth will likely reel in demands at the bargaining table in 2015, according to a report released today from the Conference Board of Canada.

In its annual Industrial Relations Outlook report, the independent research organization noted that the overall bargaining climate is expected to be constrained by modest economic growth. As well, public sector unions will curb demands for improved wages and benefits, as most provinces face debt and deficit challenges and continue to trumpet austerity budgets.

“The state of the economy has led to widespread uncertainty, and this will serve to temper expectations at the bargaining table,” said Bryce Swerhun, a research associate at the board. “With neither side in a position to raise expectations, the overall bargaining climate will encourage coordination, if not full cooperation this year.”

According to the report, average base pay increases for unionized workers in 2015 are projected to be 1.5 per cent in the public sector, and 2.2 per cent for the private sector.

With public sector contracts expired or expiring soon, negotiations will be plentiful. Of note is Quebec’s bargaining with hundreds of thousands of unionized provincial staffers. Because of tightened budgets, most union demands for improved wages and benefits will be constrained.

This is not necessarily bad news, the report notes, as modest economic growth should quell employer demands for concessions.

In the private sector, bargaining will vary widely and wildly by industry and region. Of late, there has been encouraging growth in the manufacturing industry, but the conference board called such improvements “tenuous” and employers may not yet be able — or willing — to forego past concessions.

The overall climate in 2015, coupled with modest economic growth, provides an opportunity for management and unions to address medium and long-term challenges at the bargaining table.

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