Wage gap between unionized, non-unionized workers closing

Gap shrinks to eight per cent in 1999, was 20 per cent in 1986

While unionized workers earn more than their non-unionized counterparts, the gap is starting to close according to a new study that looks at the wage differences between the two groups.

In 1999, unionized workers earned about eight per cent more than non-unionized staff. That’s a decrease from previous estimates. In 1986, for example, the wage gap was 20 per cent and in 1998 it was 12 per cent.

According to the study, Workplace and Employee Survey by Statistics Canada, the average hourly wage for unionized workers in 1999 was $20.36. Non-unionized staff, in comparison, earned $17.82. This amounts to an overall wage premium of 14 per cent, but when differences in characteristics of both workers and firms — such as industry, occupation, tenure and region — are factored in, the gap drops to eight per cent.

Unionized workers also spend a greater number of years with the same employer. On average, they spent nine years with their employers compared to six-years for non-unionized staff, and were more likely to be production, professional or technical workers than managerial or clerical workers.

Other findings from the study:

•Unionized workers were more likely to come from primary manufacturing, communications and utilities, education and health care industries.

•Generally, larger firms and not-for-profit organizations have a higher proportion of unionized staff.

•Quebec and British Columbia are the most heavily-unionized areas while Ontario and Alberta are the least.

•The eight per cent wage gap is not uniform across industries, occupations and regions. The construction industry (19 per cent) and construction workers (15 per cent) were at the top end of the scale. Real estate, rental and leasing (minus 11 per cent) and management and professional workers (-1 per cent) were at the bottom of the scale.

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