Wage Stagnation: What Is The Answer?

Have you ever noticed that wages seem to have been the same for quite some time? It seems like wages stay around the same, but the cost of living increases year after year. It’s because wage stagnation is a major crisis hitting developed countries, including Canada.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released a report that with unemployment rates at record lows in countries around the world, wage growth has become ‘missing in action.’ They have reported that developed countries are seeing unprecedented wage stagnation.

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Higher profits do not equal higher wages. Those profits just put money into the pocket of the 1 per cent.

So we know there is stagnation, but what are the reasons for it?

New Company Structure 
The OECD has pointed out that ‘superstar’ tech companies that have been popping up around the world are structured in a way that eliminates the need for lots of employees. Many huge tech companies have less than 100 employees. This trend reduces the amount of money that goes into wages and increases the amount going to the shareholders and owners.

Rise of Low Skilled Jobs
There has been a huge increase in the number of low-skilled jobs around the world due to the rise of technology and globalization. This has been creating a polarization of wages at the very top and bottom, eliminating the middle-class. While there are more jobs available, more and more of them are low-paying and low-skilled.

Lack of Unions
Unions change the balance of power in favour of employees when dealing with employers. Unions set the bar for wages for industries for decades, and as unions started to decline so did the increase in wages. Without a union standing up for employees in the workplace, employers have not felt the pressure to increase wages. Union members earn on average $5.28/hour more than non-union workers in Canada. That is an extra $43.2 billion into our economy.

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Stagnant Despite Minimum Wage
In 2016, the Alberta Government unveiled a plan to raise the minimum wage in Alberta to $15/hour. It was raised $1.00 to $12.20 per hour on Oct. 1, 2016, to $13.60 on Oct. 1, 2017, and will be $15 by Oct. 1 of this year. Despite this, overall wages have not increased by much and any economic growth has almost exclusively benefited the top 1 per cent in the province. 

The good news is that the popularity of unions is increasing, especially with millennials who view them favourably and much more favourably than corporations.  With the addition to unions in the workplace, wages can raise for union members and non-union members alike.


Why Unions Are So Important

Think about your work life today. Chances are you're paid at least the minimum wage. You probably have some days off. Your place of work has safety guidelines that they are supposed to follow, and if they don’t follow those, then there are consequences.

All of those things are possible because of unions. Unions set the standard for wages, benefits and working conditions across North America, but as unionizations declines sometimes it becomes easy to forget.

In an economy with a shrinking middle class and increasing wealth at the top, conditions for workers are starting to decline. Precarious work is on the rise in Canada and workers don’t see the protections they once had.

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A recent global example of this is Amazon.

Founder Jeff Bezos is officially the richest man in the world and the wealthiest person in history with a net worth of $150 billion. Amazon is a household name and one of the most influential and profitable companies in the world.

But workers aren’t seeing any of the rewards.

Violations
Journalists and activists around the world have discovered widespread abuse of Amazon workers. Workers have been found to ‘routinely urinate in water bottles’ to avoid being reprimanded for taking breaks or falling behind in productivity. There are countless reports of workers being seriously injured on the job and then being fired or not allowed to fill out workers compensation forms. Others have been injured and punished for not coming into work the next day. Other employees have ‘succumb to fatigue and exhaustion’ from not being allowed to take breaks during their shift.

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Anti-Union
There have been countless efforts to unionize at Amazon in order to gain protections, living wages and basic rights for workers. The New York Times reported that Amazon has direct instructions for managers on how to detect and bust any union efforts. There have also been many documented reports of employees being fired if any unionization efforts are even suspected.

Despite the poor track record on labour right, cities across North America, including in Canada, are desperate for the chance to have Amazon located in their region.

What this shows is that the labour movement is still needed. Collective bargaining ensures pay and work standards for union members and sets the bar for all in the industry. Unions also fight for protections for all workers across Canada, from preventing discrimination in the workplace to ensuring there are up-to-date safety guidelines. Unions are needed now more than ever.


What Exactly Is A Mancession?

Albertans know all too well the pains of a recession. We have experienced riding the wave of boom and bust many times in the province and we see first-hand the effect it can have on everyone in the province – not just those in oil and gas.

Although we are starting to bounce back from the latest hit, we’re still seeing the impact of the last recession on our province, especially for men. Many economists and researchers have referred to the latest economic phase as the ‘mancession’.

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What is a Mancession?
This term refers to when a recession hits men harder than women, and according to economist Ron Kneebone from the University of Calgary, recessions are increasingly becoming mancessions.  In Calgary, men enjoyed two decades of income growth, but when the recession struck the average male income plunged by $20,000. Young men were hit particularly hard and suffered some of the worst job losses. This was similar in the 80s and 90s.

Changing Roles
Part of this type of recession is a shifting of gender roles and culture. Research suggests that these types of recessions are shifting the way men think of masculinity and traditional roles in the household. Women are increasingly educated and moving into breadwinning roles, and this means shifting the idea of work and home life for many people in the province.

Gendered Industries
Another factor is that male-dominated industries are typically in high-risk sectors and are also starting to disappear. Men make up 75 per cent of Alberta’s oil and gas sector and 87 per cent of construction. However, more secure female-dominated industries are expanding quickly especially in areas such as healthcare and social services. Studies have shown that men need to start shifting their views of ‘male and female’ work in order to adapt.

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Mental Health and Self-Worth
One of the biggest concerns with a mancession is the impact on the self-worth and mental health of those affected. Men have reported feeling completely shaken, worthless and less of a ‘man.’ Depression is common as well as an ‘overwhelming sense of loss.’ Suicide is also a huge issue. Men between the ages of 40 and 60 have the highest rate of suicide in Canada. Although women attempt suicide more, men die by suicide three times more often because they use more lethal means.

We do know that recessions do affect all genders, it’s clear the men are hit more directly in Alberta. While we can’t ignore the issue of the gender pay gap, women are still earning 76¢ for every $1 a man earns, we should be paying close attention to mancessions for the well-being of Albertans across the province.


Teamsters Weekly Update for Sep. 1

Each week Teamsters Local 362 will update our members on what is happening within the local and what our business agents are doing outside of their daily responsibilities. Make sure you check in to see what is happening in the union.

This week in bargaining, Local 362’ Bargaining Committee met with Matthews Equipment Limited for the commencement of bargaining for the renewal of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Stay tuned for further weekly updates to learn about progress on Matthews Equipment negotiations and future meeting dates.

In other news this week, Representatives from Local 362 visited UPS Calgary on Tuesday, Aug. 28 to celebrate the anniversary of the following Members:
-          Meho Karaibrahimovic with 20 years of service
-          Dan Davies with 20 years of service
-          Neal Duczek with 20 years of service
-          Mike Maley 30 years of Service
From all of us at Local 362, we would like to commend the following Members on their hard work over the years but would like to wish you many more years of safe and healthy work with UPS.

On Monday, Aug. 27 representatives from Local 362 attended the official flag raising for the beginning of Calgary Pride 2018 at the McDougal Centre in Downtown Calgary. As mentioned in previous weekly updates, Local 362 is enthused and extremely proud to be taking part in the Pride Parade on Sunday, Sep. 2 starting at 11.00. Come down and join us and show your support for Teamster 362 Pride. For more information on the events taking place throughout the weekend, please visit: http://www.calgarypride.ca/events/