2022 PEA Collective Bargaining Context

Most PEA chapters are or will be busy with collective bargaining this year. The PEA is currently bargaining with the Law Society and entering mediation. The following agreements expire in 2022:

  • Government Licensed Professionals (GLP) – March
  • Health Sciences Professionals (HSP) – March
  • Family Maintenance Agency (FMA) – March
  • University of Victoria (UVic) – June
  • Oil and Gas Commission (OGC) – June
  • Legal Aid BC (LABC) – September
  • PEA Staff – December

Public Sector Employers Council Mandates
Approximately 90% of all PEA members fall under Public Sector Employers Counsel (PSEC) mandates, including all of the chapters noted above except for the LSL and PEA staff.  PSEC sets collective bargaining mandates and strictly coordinates employers in bargaining. Mandates include a compensation element such as wage increases and political goals and objectives of the governing party.  Examples of past mandates:

  • 2019 Sustainable Services Mandate
  • 2014 Economic Stability Mandate
  • 2012 Cooperative Gains Mandate
  • 2010 Net Zero Mandate

PSEC mandates have been mostly a one size fits all (i.e. generic general wage increases for all public sector workers), although very low wages for some workers have been adjusted higher (e.g., low-wage redress agreements in community social services).  With high inflation in 2021, PSEC mandates have resulted in wage increases that slightly lag inflation as set out in the following table.  This differential could be even greater if the final 2021 CPI for BC is higher.

2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 Total
GLP Increases (exclude targeted market: include Economic Stability Dividend) 0 2 2 0 1 1.95 1.85 2 2 2 2 16.8
BC Ave. Annual CPI (all items) 2.4 1.1 -0.1 1 1.1 1.8 2.1 2.7 2.3 0.8 3.6 18.6

Notes: *for 2021 utilized Nov 2021 average year over year increase

PEA members’ frustrations about low pay and paltry salary increases are shared across BCs public sector unions and their members.  Approximately 400,000 public sector workers in BC are covered by PSEC mandates and most public sector salaries in BC are low relative to comparator provinces and also lag the private sector.

BC Federation of Labour
The PEA participates on the BC Federation of Labour (BCFED) Public Sector Working Group, a group of unions that have bargaining units falling under PSEC mandates and there have been a few pre-bargaining discussions already.  The group shares valuable information and strategy. At this table, the PEA promotes the establishment of clear BC public sector union objectives for the next round of bargaining that would enable solidarity and a coordinated response to government’s next mandate. The BCGEU is likely to begin this round of public sector bargaining with the Public Service Agency in February. In the past, once a mandate has been agreed to by a union, other unions have agreed to the same mandate.

Factors Impacting Bargaining
Following is some additional data and information relevant to wages and collective bargaining.

BC Provincial Budget
The province’s fiscal update from Nov. 2021 did not factor in the costs of flood-related disasters; however, the expected deficit for 2021/22 was revised from $ 4.8B to $1.7B for 2021/22.

Cost of Living and General Wage Increases
The earlier table shows how PEA GLP members’ general wage increases have not kept up with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) over many years.

According to BC Stats, BCs CPI in November 2021 was 3.6% higher than last November.  It is noteworthy that shelter costs increased 5.0% over that period.  Across Canada, CPI increased by 4.7% over that period.

2022 Inflation Projections (note: many of these may now be somewhat dated given persistent inflation):

  • BMO 3.5%
  • Bank of Canada: “Our view remains that inflation will stay high during the first half of 2022 and ease back towards 2 percent in the second half of the year. However, we’ll be watching inflation expectations and labour costs closely to ensure that the forces pushing up prices don’t become embedded in ongoing inflation.
  • The Province of BC Budget forecasts inflation to remain at 2% over the medium term.
  • RBC forecasts BC CPI at 1.8%
  • Central 1 Economics forecasts BC CPI at 1.9%

Wage Increase Projections and Settlements
Western Compensation and Benefits Consultants survey results from September 2021 projected an average of 2.7% increase in salaries for 2022.

The BC Business Council Bargaining Bulletin is made available on BCs Bargaining Database.  The latest collective bargaining report details various bargaining settlements with increases that are generally in the range of 2% annually.  It is noteworthy in the report though that the forestry industry and municipal settlements provide higher increases in some instances. PSEC does not have oversight of municipal bargaining.

The Federal Government produces reports of public and private sector union wage settlements from across Canada.  BC is showing similar settlement outcomes to other provinces.  Following is a summary table Using Average Percentage Adjustment over the term of the settlement that compares BC with averages for public and private sectors from across Canada as of November 2021:

November 2021
BC Average Percentage Adjustment (Public and Private) 2.2%
All jurisdictions Canada (Public and Private) Private Sector Canada Average Percentage Adjustment 1.9%

Following is a table showing the Average Annual Percentage wage increases for union settlements for Canada (public and private) over the last five years.

2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 (Nov)
Canada (All) Average Percentage Adjustment 1.3% 1.7% 1.3% 1.7% 1.6% 1.9%

Recent Media Reports on 2021 and 2022 bargaining
Already, the country’s largest public-sector union, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, is warning that it expects wages to keep up with what it calls “soaring” inflation when it negotiates contracts for 110,000 civil servants in 2022. They’re asking for raises of 4.5% each year for three years. Talks start in January.

The recent Life Labs and BCGEU private sector agreement included wage improvements averaging increases of 12% over three years, a $1,250 signing bonus for all active employees to be paid out within 30 days of ratification. Members also have an improved indexed pension plan, increases to extended health coverage, improvements to sick leave entitlement and health and safety policies, as well as stronger workload language to deal with understaffing issues.

Earlier wage predictions as set out above did not reflect the significant persistent inflation experienced over the last number of months.  PEA members, and most BC public sector workers covered by PSEC mandates, wage increases have lagged inflation by 2% over the last decade. BC wages have fallen relative to most comparators while the costs of living and housing in BC are relatively high. The province’s finances will be impacted by recent natural disasters and this round of public sector bargaining will be interesting to say the least, with the potential for a conflict over union members’ wage expectations and the willingness of government to provide those.

The PEA continues to advocate for a coordinated approach with other public sector unions to ensure a strong, consistent approach in public sector bargaining that leads to wage increases that our members will accept as fair and reasonable.  We know wage increases that reflect the rising cost of living are a priority. We will continue to monitor settlements and update members accordingly.

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