Industrial Relations Outlook 2013: Embracing the “New Normal”

The Conference Board of Canada, 32 pages, December 2012
Report by David K. Shepherdson
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In 2013 collective bargaining in Canada will be shaped by the “new normal”: slow economic growth that, except in the strong commodities sector, will restrain employment and compensation growth in both the private and public sectors.

Document Highlights

The latest edition of the Conference Board’s Industrial Relations Outlook starts from the notion of the “new normal,” an economic era characterized by slow growth, low interest rates and inflation, and unabated global demand for commodities. What does this mean for collective bargaining in the coming year? There is a sense that both employers and unions are coming to terms with the “new normal” and will bring more realistic expectations to the bargaining table. In the public sector, governments of all political stripes will continue to focus on balancing budgets and curtailing debt. We should expect ongoing restraint in public spending, with consequent impacts on public sector jobs and compensation. In the private sector, there will be strong job and compensation growth in sectors where business investment is growing, notably in the commodities sector. In contrast, employment and compensation will lag in manufacturing, where industries such as the auto sector are contracting. Going forward, bargaining outcomes in manufacturing will likely mirror those in the auto industry, with reduced wages and increasing use of two-tier wage structures.

Table of Contents

Executive Summary

Chapter 1—The State of the Unions

  • Union Density and Union Wage Premiums
  • Public Sector Unions
  • Private Sector Unions
  • Labour Disputes

Chapter 2—The Economic Outlook

  • The Global Outlook
  • The US Outlook
  • The Canadian Outlook

Chapter 3—The Compensation Outlook

  • Average Base Pay Increases
  • Pensions

Chapter 4—The Bargaining Outlook

  • Public Sector Bargaining
  • Private Sector Bargaining

Chapter 5—The Roundtable

  • The Courts and Collective Bargaining
  • Role of Social Media
  • Demographics and Skills Shortages
  • Pensions

Chapter 6—Conclusion

Appendix A—Bibliography

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