What unions want

By Gord Sova
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/05/2003

Over the last few years, an aging workforce has made pensions a top issue in negotiations. Recently, members of the United Steelworkers at Stelco’s Hilton Works in Hamilton ratified an agreement where virtually all the increases went to pensions and none to wages.

Pensions will increase 44 per cent over the course of the four-year agreement, while wages increase by about 0.5 per cent. By the end of the contract, half of Stelco’s 4,000 unionized employees will be in the position to take either regular or early retirement.

A cautionary note, though, about neglecting workers not about to enter their golden years: younger Teamsters at a William Neilson facility west of Toronto felt they had been sold out when their elders negotiated a multi-year contract long on pension benefits and short on wage increases. They succeeded in convincing the employer to re-open the agreement well short of the end of the term and won significantly higher wages.