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Unionization

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Unionization rates in first half of 2006 and 2007

At 14.1 million, average paid employment (employees) during the first half of 2007 was 283,000 higher than during the same period a year earlier (Table 1 - Union membership and coverage by selected characteristics ).

On the other hand, union membership increased by 72,000 to 4.2 million. Compared with last year, employment grew less while union membership expanded more. As a result, the unionization rate (density) remained unchanged at 29.7%.

Both men and women registered marginal decreases in unionization rates. At 30.0%, the women's rate in 2007 continued to exceed the rate for men (29.3%).

Unionization rose slightly in the public sector (to 71.7%) but remained the same in the private sector (17.0%).

Seven provinces recorded increases. Decreases were seen in Quebec, Saskatchewan and Alberta (Chart A - Newfoundland and Labrador the most unionized province; Alberta, the least). The rate fell from 23.2% to 22.9% for part-time workers and remained unchanged for full-time workers (31.2%).

The unionization rate for permanent employees remained at 30.2%, but decreased to 25.8% for those in non-permanent jobs. The rate fell in workplaces with less than 20 employees, and those with 100 to 500, it increased in those with more than 500 employees and those with 20 to 99 employees.

Unionization rose in 8 of the 16 major industry groups: public administration; construction; information, culture and recreation; trade; business, building and other support; other services; finance, insurance, real estate and leasing; and accommodation and food. Professional, scientific and technical remained stable, while all other industry groups registered declines (Chart B - The highest unionization rates were in public-sector industries).

Among the 10 major occupational groups, unionization rose in 3: business, finance and administrative; natural and applied sciences; and management. Trades, transport and equipment operators and sales and services remained stable, while the rest showed declines (Chart C - Unionization in community service occupations far outpaced that in others).

The number of employees who were not union members but covered by a collective agreement averaged 308,000, down slightly from 316,000 a year earlier (see Akyeampong 2000 for a description of this group).

2006 annual averages

Approximately 4.1 million (29.4%) employees belonged to a union in 2006 (Table 2 - Union membership, 2006). An additional 320,000 (2.3%) were covered by a collective agreement.

Those in the public sector—government, Crown corporations, and publicly funded schools or hospitals—were four times as likely as their private-sector counterparts to belong to a union (71.0% versus 17.0%).

Almost 1 in 3 full-time employees belonged to a union, compared with about 1 in 4 part-time. Also, almost 1 in 3 permanent employees was a union member, compared with 1 in 4 nonpermanent.

High unionization rates were found among employees aged 45 to 54 (39.0%); among those with a postsecondary certificate or diploma (33.3%) or a university degree (33.2%); in Quebec (36.4%) and Newfoundland and Labrador (35.6%); in educational services (68.2%), public administration (66.9%), and utilities (65.4%); and in health care occupations (61.4%).

Low unionization rates were recorded among 15 to 24 year-olds (13.4%); in Alberta (22.3%); in agriculture (4.0%) and professional, scientific and technical services (4.6%); and in management occupations (7.7%).

Differences between the sexes

For the third year in a row, the unionization rate for women in 2006 surpassed that of men (29.7% versus 29.1%).

Among men, part-time employees had a much lower rate than full-time (17.7% versus 30.4%). Among women, the gap was narrower (25.4% versus 31.1%).

The unionization rate of women in the public sector (72.7%) exceeded that of men (68.3%), reflecting women's presence in public administration, and in teaching and health positions. However, in the private sector, only 12.4% were unionized, compared with 20.9% of men. The lower rate among women reflected their predominance in sales and several service occupations.

A higher-than-average rate was recorded among men with a postsecondary certificate or diploma (33.5%). For women, the highest rate was among those with a university degree (38.9%), reflecting unionization in occupations such as health care and teaching.

Among those in permanent positions, the rate for men (29.9%) was almost identical to that for women (30.1%). Among those in non-permanent positions, women were more unionized than men (27.2% versus 23.1%).

Average earnings and usual hours

Unionized jobs generally provide higher earnings than non-unionized ones (Table 3 - Average earnings and usual hours by union and job status, 2006). However, factors other than collective bargaining provisions play a role as well. These include varying distributions of unionized employees by age, sex, job tenure, industry, occupation, firm size, and geographical location.

Although these factors have not been examined, it is clear that unionized workers and jobs tend to have certain characteristics that are associated with higher earnings. For example, union density is higher among older workers, those with higher education, those with long tenure, and those in larger workplaces. Although differences in earnings and non-wage benefits cannot be attributed solely to union status (Akyeampong 2002), the union wage premium (after adjusting for employee and workplace characteristics) has been estimated at 7.7% (Fang and Verma 2002).

In 2006, the average hourly earnings of unionized workers were higher than those of non-unionized workers. This held true for both full-time ($23.34 versus $19.84) and part-time ($19.36 versus $12.00) employees.

In addition to having higher hourly earnings, unionized part-time employees generally worked more hours per week than their non-unionized counterparts (19.3 hours versus 16.9). As a result, their average weekly earnings were nearly double ($378.88 versus $208.22).

On average, unionized women working full time received 94% as much in hourly earnings as their male counterparts. In contrast, women working part time earned 12% more.

Wage settlements, inflation and labour disputes

Wage gains of 2.5% in 2006 matched the rate of inflation (Table 4 - Major wage settlements, inflation and labour disputes). During the first four months of 2007, wage gains averaged 3.0%, over one percentage point higher than the rate of inflation (1.9%).

Wage gains in the private sector in 2006 (2.1%) fell short of those in the public sector (2.6%). The gap widened in the first four months of 2007. The corresponding figures were 2.5% and 3.6%.

Annual statistics on strikes, lockouts and person-days lost are affected by several factors, including collective bargaining timetables, size of the unions involved, strike or lockout duration, and state of the economy. The number of collective agreements up for renewal in a year determines the potential for industrial disputes. Union size and strike or lockout duration determine the number of person-days lost. The state of the economy influences the likelihood of an industrial dispute, given that one is legally possible.

The estimated number of person-days lost through strikes and lockouts more than doubled from 1.7 million in 2003 to 4.1 million in 2005. In 2006, however, the number dropped sharply to 813,000.