Collective bargaining settlements are changing to reflect Canada’s shifting socio-economic climate and business practices, according to a new study released this week by Statistics Canada.
“The growing demand for healthy, hazard-free workplaces, as well as for equity and fairness, has raised the profile of provisions dealing with such issues in bargaining settlements,” said StatsCan.
“At the same time, cost-of-living adjustments clauses have become much less popular in the low-inflation climate of recent years, compared with the early 1980s, when inflation was in the double digits.”
The study showed that in 2001, the most common collective bargaining provisions, or those appearing in over 80 per cent of settlements, were occupational health and safety and job security. Cost-of-living clauses were least common, appearing in only 43 per cent of settlements.
“The high rate for health provisions is not surprising, given growing public awareness of the need to minimize work-related diseases, injuries, stress and other hazards,” Statistics Canada noted. “The penchant for job security is also understandable, especially in light of the high-tech meltdown immediately following the Y2K boom, and the associated rise in the unemployment rate in 2001.”
Provisions centring on pay and employment equity are also prominent, appearing in 60 per cent of settlements. Demand for better education and training is also on the rise, driven by rapidly evolving technology. Changes in business practices and increased competition also appear to be affecting the number of provisions dealing with contracting out, workplace reorganization, and employee participation in decision-making.
The study noted that the likelihood of key provisions being included in settlements was highest in the education, health, transportation, communications and utilities sectors, all of which are heavily unionized. At the bottom end of the spectrum were settlements in the construction industry.
According to the study, about 80 per cent of the workers surveyed rated their labour-management relations as good, 20 per cent as fair, and virtually none as poor.
Go to www.statcan.ca/Daily/English/050824/td050824.htm for more details from the study.