Industrial Relations Outlook 2012: Going Sideways, With a Twist

The Conference Board of Canada, 38 pages, November 30, 2011
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Canada’s labour relations will be coloured by economic uncertainty—limiting employers’ ability to satisfy labour’s expectations at the bargaining table—and possible unintended consequences resulting from government intervention in labour disputes.

Document Highlights

Although the “Great Recession” never materialized in Canada, ongoing economic uncertainty and concerns over the sluggish U.S. recovery will continue to plague the industrial relations climate and collective bargaining.

Governments have maintained a singular focus on eliminating their budget deficits, and this will limit their willingness to offer public sector workers more than modest wage increases in 2012. In the private sector, while some sectors are doing well, enterprises with substantial legacy costs and facing greater competition in the marketplace may find it difficult to satisfy labour’s expectations, and the potential for labour disputes is very real. While the fragile economy gave the federal government a reason to intervene in high-profile labour disputes involving Air Canada and Canada Post, those actions may have unintended impacts on labour relations.

Over the longer-term, the aging of the population could limit Canada’s economic growth unless all stakeholders—including labour and management—take steps to increase investment in training and development in an effort to mitigate the effects of possible labour shortages.

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