Alberta and Saskatchewan workers looking at biggest pay raises in 2014: report

CALGARY – A report from the Conference Board of Canada suggests it’s better to be a rig pig on the Prairies than a health-care worker in Ontario from a labour perspective.

The board’s forecast released Tuesday says workers in Alberta and Saskatchewan will fare the best in wage increases next year largely due to a shortage of qualified employees in the energy sector.

“The divide between East and West persists. Frenzied resource development and near-bottom unemployment rates mean that Alberta and Saskatchewan are again expecting to offer the highest pay increases next year,” said Ian Cullwick, vice-president of leadership and human resources research.

The report projects average increases of 3.7 per cent in Alberta and Saskatchewan. The lowest average increases are expected in the Atlantic provinces at 2.5 per cent and Ontario at 2.6 per cent.

The Canadian average for non-unionized workers is anticipated at 2.9 per cent in 2014.

The information is based on the responses of 411 employers across the country to a survey conducted between June and August.

The key is the availability of qualified workers in each region, said Cullwick. The findings also reflect that the industry with the highest average increases is predicted to be the oil and gas sector at 4.1 per cent. The health sector is forecast to have the lowest average increases at 1.8 per cent.

“Oil and gas lead the pack,” said Cullwick. “On the flip side, just to put some contrast to this, health care … is a tough industry sector. There’s a lot of restructuring going on across the country and the economics are indeed challenged.

“The cost of health care has gone up. If you look at health care authorities, I would argue they’re putting the money into patient care, equipment and facilities and they just don’t have much left over (for salaries).”

Cullwick said overall Canada’s economy is in relatively good shape, but growth has been sluggish and organizations will be looking at ways of keeping costs down.

Glen Hodgson, chief economist at the conference board, blames a drop in economic growth in Canada this year on the fiscal debt crisis and government shutdown in Washington, D.C.

Canada is affected by what he calls the “fiscal follies” south of the border, but he does expect the economy to rebound to about 2.4 per cent growth in 2014.

Hodgson said once again Alberta and Saskatchewan should lead the way with a growth rate of three per cent.

“The unemployment rate in both provinces is at 4.7 per cent and that is below full employment. You’re getting really tight labour markets and that leads to the wage pressure,” he said.

“That’s going to be an ongoing trend and you’re going to see tight labour markets on an ongoing basis.”

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