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Collective agreements continued to provide workers with real wage gains in 2006.

This article is from the fall 2006 edition of Economic Climate for Bargaining, a quarterly publication of our research department.

Average base-rate wage adjustments for large collective bargaining units of 500 or more increased by 2.6% in the 3rd quarter of 2006, slightly down from the 2.7% average achieved in the 2nd quarter.

These wage gains, outpaced the average 2.1% rate of inflation registered so far this year. The base-rate wage adjustments underestimate total compensation gains because they do not account for increasing use of signing bonuses, profit sharing, fiscal dividend promises and specific labour market adjustments.

The wage reports (for large collective agreements of 500 or more) are calculated as the annual averages over the life of each agreement, often including previous years.

Analysis of CUPE settlements suggests that average wage increases for the 2007 will be higher than in 2006, particularly in Alberta, B.C. and Ontario (although settlements in Ontario’s education sector are being squeezed by provincial budget cuts.)

Public sector employees gained average increases of 2.7% in the third quarter compared to average increases of 2.5% for large private sector agreements.

The largest wage gains in the 3rd quarter were the 3.5% average achieved in Alberta, followed by average increases of 3.3% in Nova Scotia.

Quebec agreements had the lowest average at 1.7%. The largest increase on an industry basis in the 3rd quarter continued to be in construction, with 3.5% base wage increases.

Employees in public administration gained average increases of 2.8% while employees in education, health and social service and in the utilities industry achieved gains averaging 2.6%.

Settlements in the trade and manufacturing sectors have averaged 2% or lower so far this year, lagging behind the inflation rate. The industry with the lowest increase in the 3rd quarter was information and culture, where the agreement with TELUS provided an annual average increase of 0.5%.

However, this agreement included a new profit-sharing plan that will provide an annual bonus with a maximum of 3% of wages for 2007, 4% for 2008 and 5% for 2009.

CUPE’s agreement with Hydro Quebec also included a profit-sharing plan with up to 4.5% of annual base wages to be made as a lump sum payment and a lump sum payment for late implementation of a new salary scale.

CUPE Local 998 agreement with Manitoba Hydro provided average annual increases of 2.5%.

Local 1190’s agreement with the Government of New Brunswick provide annual average increases of 2.5%, but also include special adjustments of 1% for all employees; while Local 1253’s agreement includes ongoing skills enhancement and maintenance and trades adjustments.

Major CUPE negotiations include current bargaining with the City of Vancouver, Ottawa Hospital, and Government of New Brunswick.