Another thing that is changing is, longer term collective agreements of 3 years or more are becoming increasingly prevalent as both union and management strive for long-term stability. Frankly, the customers are saying out on the street, that unless you can promise us that you won't have labor disruption for 3 or 4 or 5 years at least, don't come trucking your trade to us. So, what's happening is the mining industry, the forest industry and the pulp industry are coming to their union saying "we've got to have stability, not just the basis of our competitiveness, but on the basis of stability on labour management relationships. I am dealing right now with Fording Coal down in the Kootenays and the major proposal on the table from both unions is a collective agreement for 5 years. The parties bought into the principal of the 5 year collective agreement. One, because they know they are going to lose coal business unless they can tell the steel companies in Japan that "we can deliver the product unless some chaos happens, some force major, but at least we won't have a labour disruption". Secondly, the workers are fed up that every two years it's a ritual dance, there is a beating of the drums. There is a ritual dance in terms of "okay, we have to get angry with management again for another 6 months while collective bargaining goes on, and then we'll try to work out our differences and pick up the pieces after that collective bargaining process is over'. Parties are realizing that they need stability in terms of long term relationships.
Now, another thing that is shocking in terms of what has happened in the past, is the unions are coming around to accepting minimal salary increases and benefit improvements. Now, maybe management would say that is because salaries are so damn high, and that's because the benefit packages have reached the saturation point, but it never stopped them in the past. Now, when I am dealing with collective bargaining in terms of the disputes that I am dealing with, what they are talking about is unions not looking for 10 & 12%, they are looking somewhere at the cost of living - 2'ish at best. When they are talking about benefit improvements - would you please give us $2500 for orthodontics under part C of dental. And these are the big issues that are there now. They are recognizing that the vacation leave, the sick leave, the WI. and LTD. is saturated out. I am seeing that every day, not just in your industry, but other industries as well.
Wage settlements are generally at or below the cost of living, and that trend in my mind is expected to continue. One of the type of employer proposal's at the bargaining table includes the two-tier wage structure. The two-tier wage structure is now on the bargaining table In the Overwaitea/Safeway dispute. They are now voting on it on the basis of the employer trying to achieve the two wage structure through a final offer vote to the employees, ~~~hen the union has said "we will not accept any two tier wage structure under any any circumstance". Employers are pushing it in that industry. Their percentage of success is negligible on the basis of the unions making the pitch to the employees "if you get a two-tier wage structure, you are selling out future workers and once they get the two-tier wage structure, the next time they come'at us they'll come at us to rope you into the lower rates". Whether or not that is what management's agenda is, the union can legitimately put that out as propaganda against the two-tier wage structure.