Wages in Canada and the other advanced economies are about as flat as left-over champagne in the glass on New Year's Day. This poses a major threat to a sustained economic recovery.
During the four years from 2009 through 2013, average hourly wages adjusted for inflation rose by a grand total of just 2.3%, or by about one half of 1% per year. Real wages rose by a total of only 0.9% in Ontario and 1.1% in Quebec over those four years, though by a healthier but still unimpressive 4.8% in Alberta.
Labour day is an appropriate time to reflect on the accomplishments of the labour movement -- and the challenges that lie ahead.
There is increased recognition that strong unions were a key pillar of the period of shared prosperity, which lasted for some 30 years from the 1950s through the 1970s. Unions negotiated wage and benefit increases in line with growing productivity, and these gains gradually spread to non-union workplaces.
Unions made Canada a much more equal society by raising the wages of formerly low-paid workers; by narrowing pay differences, including between women and men; and by successfully advocating for the expansion of social programs and public services.