Labour Relations Outlook

The bargaining environment in 2022.

Updated: February 15, 2022

After more than a year of unprecedented challenges, Canada’s economy is starting to recover. Employment has returned to pre-pandemic levels and wages are improving. But how will fiscal uncertainty, labour shortages, and growing unionization affect labour relations in 2022?

Part 1: The Bargaining Environment

Labour Relations Outlook 2022—Part 1: The Bargaining Environment includes our economic forecast, projected wage increases for both unionized and non-unionized organizations, and a breakdown by sectors, industries, and regions, as well as insights on the union–management climate for 2022.

The compensation data and negotiation topics come from the Conference Board’s annual Compensation Planning Outlook survey, in which 363 Canadian organizations (192 unionized) participated during the summer of 2021.

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Some key issues addressed in the 2022 research

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The 2022 labour outlook is promising—though fiscal uncertainty, labour shortages, and growing unionization will keep both sides alert.

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Employment has returned to pre-pandemic levels—but economic challenges still remain. Long-standing labour shortages in several industries have worsened, threatening rehiring and growth

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Unionized employees could see wages rise by 1.9 per cent, while non-unionized employees could see increases of around 2.4 per cent. This is likely a conservative projection, as we expect unions will seek notable improvements once the economy fully recovers.

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Most organizations anticipate a cooperative union–management relationship will continue in the coming year. But as unionization rates have climbed throughout 2021, newer relationships may be rockier.

Part 2: The Bargaining Environment

Labour Relations Outlook 2022–Part 2: Perspectives for the Bargaining Table includes our analysis of how unions and employers are navigating the future of work. We note that wages will continue be a top priority at the bargaining table, as will equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives and the potential displacement of workers by automation and technology.

The top negotiation priorities were identified through 14 interviews conducted by The Conference Board of Canada with representatives from unions and employers in the fall of 2021. The interview revealed that while many of 2022’s key bargaining issues will remain consistent with past years, both employers and unions are focusing more closely on how new workplace practices adopted during the pandemic might become part of the future of work.

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Some key issues addressed in the 2022 research

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Labour shortages are a growing concern for both employers and unions amid high job vacancies.

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Efforts have continued throughout the pandemic to create more inclusive, diverse, and equitable workplaces.

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Employers and unions are navigating what the future of work will look like, with employees continuing to seek flexibility as the economy reopens.

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We can expect the use of virtual tools, including video conferencing, social media, and online campaigns, to continue beyond the pandemic.

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Health and safety issues were a significant focus for both employers and unions, including vaccine mandates, paid sick days, and employee mental health.

The Labour Relations Outlook keeps me current with other sectors and organizations, and leads to better bargaining outcomes.


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