Collective Bargaining in 1993: Jobs Are the Issue

Article excerpt

Contract negotiations for almost 2.8 million workers under 669 major collective bargaining agreements are scheduled for 1993. This year's bargaining will involve slightly more than one-third of the 8.2 million workers covered by all major labor agreements (those with 1,000 or more workers) in private industry and State and local governments. Workers in private industry make up almost three-fourths (2 million) of all workers covered by agreements set to expire or reopen in 1993. (See tables 1 and 2.)

The 2 million private industry workers for whom contract talks are scheduled during the year account for one-third of all private industry workers under major agreements. Slightly more than one-half of the private industry workers scheduled for 1993 negotiations are employed in nonmanufacturing industries, chiefly transportation equipment (26 percent of the workers), construction (21 percent), retail trade (10 percent), and trucking (7 percent). Although accounting for only 4 percent of private industry workers under expiring agreements, all major contracts in bituminous coal mining and petroleum refining are up for renegotiation in 1993.

In State and local government, 244 major contracts, coveting 735,000 workers, will expire or reopen in 1993. Negotiations will cover 431,000 employees in local governments and 304,000 employees in State governments. One-fifth of all public sector workers covered by expiring or reopening agreements are employed by three States: Pennsylvania, Hawaii, and Minnesota.

Information in this article concerning 1993 negotiations is based on data available to the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of September 30, 1992. Settlements that occurred in the fourth quarter of 1992, but are scheduled to expire or reopen this year, would affect the proportion of workers up for negotiations in 1993.

In State and local government, for example, about 1.3 million workers were under agreements that expired before October 1, 1992, and had not been renegotiated. Another 87,000 workers were under State and local government bargaining agreements scheduled to expire or reopen in the fourth quarter of 1992. In the unlikely event that all of these contracts were settled before the end of 1992 and called for termination or reopening during 1993, bargaining activity for the year in State and local government would be increased substantially. The bargaining agenda will also include negotiations that began in 1992 or earlier and that continued into 1993.

Several economic factors will affect negotiations in 1993. Many analysts are concerned about the ability of the economy to generate new jobs, so the employment outlook for the economy as a whole, as well as for particular geographic regions and industries, will influence negotiators. Expectations concerning the rate of inflation may also affect negotiating positions.

Another issue expected to be on the minds of many bargainers is the effect of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) reached last August and awaiting final approval from Congress.(1) The pact is designed to eliminate tariffs and trade barriers for goods produced in Canada, the United States, and Mexico and sold among these nations. Supporters say that net U.S. job growth can be expected in the long term, as the demand for U.S. goods increases; detractors believe that high-paying manufacturing jobs will be moved to lower wage areas in Mexico.

Bargaining environment

Recent changes in compensation. The recent trend in wage and benefit changes will likely be noted by the parties at the bargaining table in 1993. According to the Bureau's Employment Cost Index, in private industry and State and local government, employers' costs for employee compensation (wages, salaries, and benefits) rose 3.5 percent in the year ended September 1992, the smallest over-the-year increase since 1987. The 1991-92 rise in wages and salaries (2.7 percent) reflected the smallest 12-month rise since the data were first tabulated in 1982. …