Research,  Trade Unions,  Wages

Sector Bargaining and Broader Based Bargaining

Labour advocates and researchers around the world have been investigating the possibility of new systems of broader based collective bargaining, as a promising strategy for reversing the decline in collective bargaining coverage which has occurred in many countries. Sectoral, occupational, and other broader-based bargaining systems allow negotiations to occur at more than one workplace or enterprise at a time: across occupations, sectors, or regions. They can allow bargainers to establish common terms across multiple worksites – such as covering all franchises within a large commercial chain. And by establishing terms and conditions that apply evenly across broader sets of businesses, broader based bargaining does not disadvantage any particular company or enterprise.

Sectoral and broader based bargaining already occurs in Canada in important sectors and occupations: including many public services (such as province-wide health and education contracts that apply in most provinces), construction, and manufacturing (such as pattern agreements in the auto, energy, and forestry sectors). It is normal practice in many other industrial countries. Proposals have been advanced in many countries, including Canada, to expand and strengthen these broader bargaining systems.

To facilitate these discussions, the Centre for Future Work has established a new resource page with materials prepared by Canadian researchers, unionists, and policy-makers regarding the possible application of broader based bargaining policies and practices. The resource is intended as a ‘clearing house’, to facilitate exchange of proposals, research into the effects of these systems, and advocacy and organizing strategies. Contributions to the page are welcome: please email with submissions or questions. Please follow the resource page, Sector Bargaining and Broader Based Bargaining, for updates and additions.

Jim Stanford is Economist and Director of the Centre for Future Work. He divides his time between Sydney, Australia and Vancouver, Canada. Jim is one of Canada’s best-known economic commentators. He served for over 20 years as Economist and Director of Policy with Unifor, Canada’s largest private-sector trade union.