Wages and Unions in Canada


In June 2016, the median hourly wage of a unionized worker with a permanent job was $28.00 or 1.4 times that of a non unionized employee ($20.51); 1.2 times that of a unionized temporary worker ($23.14) and two times that of a non unionized temporary worker ($14.00).

In Canada, unionized workers tend to have higher wages than non unionized workers. From January 1997 to June 2016, data shows that among permanent workers, those belonging to a union had a median hourly wage up to 1.49 times higher than those who were not unionized.

A similar trend is observed among temporary employees; when they belonged to a union, their median hourly wage was up to 1.9 times higher than of non-unionized employees.

Within this context, the extensive use of the temporary foreign workers, including those who come under the International Mobility Program (IMP) cannot be ignored since it has grown uninterruptedly since 1997. This inflow is making a strong mark on the current structure of wages and benefits in the labour market in at least two ways.

First, people coming as temporary foreign workers do not have the same benefits as local workers, and most of them are engaged in precarious jobs and vulnerable working conditions. As an illustration, in April 2012, the Canadian government allowed firms to pay 15 percent less to these workers (before, they were allowed to pay five percent less), and only after social groups and unions protested this measure and other abuses of the extensive use of the program, the government eliminated this measure among others in 2013.

Second, workers coming through the IMP do not require a Labour Market Impact Assessment, so locals who might be suitable for the jobs, are simply ignored. Why? Because most temporary positions offer fewer job benefits and lower salaries.

In sum, despite the fact that the gap in wage rates between unionized permanent workers and non-unionized permanent workers is slowly closing, wage differentials suggest that unions still play an important role in the Canadian labour market. What do you think?

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