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Unionized workers better paid: report

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THE number crunchers at the Canadian Labour Congress have released a detailed report noting the point they have been making all along -- unionized workers make more than non-union workers.

According to the report released Wednesday, unionized workers across Manitoba make $5.31 per hour more than non-union workers and in Winnipeg they make $5.14 per hour more.

The union advantage

 

Union members  Union advantage as % of all employees($/per hour)

 

Canada  32%  $4.97

Alberta  24%  $4.60

B. C.  31%  $5.12

Manitoba  36%  $5.31

New Brunswick  30%  $7.76

Nfld & Lab.  39%  $7.31

Nova Scotia  31%  $6.27

Ontario  21%  $6.11

PEI  34%  $8.71

Quebec  40%  $4.29

Saskatchewan  35%  $5.32

Nationally, they make $4.97 per hour more.

Ken Georgetti, president of the CLC, said he was surprised these numbers have not been compiled in the past.

"We put it out last year and released them only internally," he said. "We asked our members if it was helpful and they said it was. So we are starting to do more of it."

'Last year, Manitoba did not lose one day of work from strike or lockout, not one. But a focus group in Winnipeg showed that 68 per cent of people in this province think unions in Manitoba strike too much'

-- Ken Georgetti, president, Canadian Labour Congress

The data was compiled from Statistics Canada reports comparing unionized wages to non-unionized hourly wages.

Georgetti said it's all part of an effort to change some negative perceptions of unions and "to put some facts out there on top of the haze of rhetoric."

The CLC has done focus groups recently and Georgetti said people hold some preconceived notions about unions that are not totally correct.

"For instance," he said, "last year, Manitoba did not lose one day of work from strike or lockout, not one. But a focus group in Winnipeg showed that 68 per cent of people in this province think unions in Manitoba strike too much."

But this type of research is not likely to change some minds very quickly. Some, like the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, see this type of data as further revelation of disparity and, when it comes to public sector collective agreements, evidence it is unsustainable.

Marilyn Braun-Pollon, a CFIB official in the Prairie region, said the report confirms what the CFIB research has shown for years.

"There are huge wage gaps that favour public sector over private sector," she said, even though the data the CLC put together was not exclusive to the public sector.

"We know that those huge gaps lead to unsustainable spending at all levels of government," she said. "And we all know that the lion's share of spending goes to employee compensation."

She said when benefits packages are factored in, the "union advantage" for federal government workers in Winnipeg is 42 per cent, 39 per cent for municipal workers and 31 per cent for provincial workers in Manitoba.

Kevin Rebeck, president of the Manitoba Federation of Labour, said there are different sorts of conditions and perceptions when it comes to public and private sector collective agreements.

Rebeck said he understands people view public sector agreements, that often include better pension benefits than those in the private sector, as their tax dollars being spent for something they themselves don't have.

"I don't understand why people buy into what employers often put forward -- 'We can't afford it and can't do it,'" he said. "But they can and it works, and why don't we say 'We deserve it,' as opposed to saying 'They don't deserve it because we don't have it.' "

Rebeck said union membership is up very slightly this year in Manitoba but nationally the numbers have been coming down, although not dramatically.

According to 2012 Human Resource and Skills Development Canada statistics, union membership as a percentage of non-agricultural paid workers was 34.4 per cent in 1996 and has gradually declined to 29.9 per cent in 2012.

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 22, 2013 B8

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