All data presented in this report are 3-year moving averages. Each calculated annual value (number of contracts, salary adjustment, duration, etc.) is determined by the average of the current annual value and values of the previous two years. With tariff data varying considerably from year to year, the 3-year rotating average gives a better picture of general trends, while showing some of the differences. Among the most important jurisdictions for this analysis are the federal jurisdiction, Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia, which together account for 85% of all settlements over the past 30 years. Important collective agreements affect 500 or more workers across Canada. The number of work stoppages per subdivision in all areas has decreased since 1984 (Chart 7). Although there have been annual fluctuations, the number of work stoppages per subdivision in the public sector has remained relatively stable, but has declined in the private sector. Over the past 30 years, the average has been higher in the private sector. This disparity between the two sectors has recently contracted and the number of work stoppages per agreement is now similar. The duration of agreements has increased since 1984 (Chart 1). The average duration was 19.6 months in 1984 and had doubled until 2014 (40.0 months).
Several factors have influenced this increase, including the desire (both employers and unions) to control the costs associated with frequent negotiations and a climate of business and legislation that encourages longer contracts. By trying, for example, to create a more investment-friendly environment in Quebec, the province abolished the three-year limitation of collective agreements in 1994 (except in the case of a first agreement) and brought other Canadian jurisdictions closer together. This report outlines some of the key trends in collective bargaining in Canada over the past three decades, including the number of collective agreements, the length of contracts and the number of work stoppages. The analysis is based on data collected by the Work Program`s Work Information and Research Division. Dodge, David, & Fray, Robert. (2003). “Low and predictable inflation and performance of Canadian labour markets.” Speech by David Dodge, Governor of the Bank of Canada at Memorial University of Newfoundland. St. John`s: Bank of Canada. www.bankofcanada.ca/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/sp03-16.pdf (called April 10, 2015). Wage changes therefore tend to follow a pattern similar to that of inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) note 9 (Figure 2).
Rising inflation in the late 1980s and early 1990s was associated with larger wage increases in collective bargaining across Canada. Similarly, the rate of inflation fell sharply between 1992 and 1994, as did the average wage increase. Inflation plays an important role in collective agreements. Unions are busy drawing wage adjustments on the prevailing inflation rate and always want to ensure that wage adjustments are not below the expected rate of inflation over the life of their contracts (Dodge and Fray, 2003). Chart 4 (a) and Chart 4, letter b) show wage adjustments made over the past 30 years in the major lower court jurisdictions 11. Several trends are noticeable: the number of work stoppages per agreement is calculated by deriding the annual number of stops by the number of counts.