Alberta’s strong economy has created some shortages of skilled labour, and as companies scramble to hire workers, wages have been rising steadily. Unionized construction tradespeople have seen their wages rise, too—although the rate of increase may surprise you.
The average hourly wage for a unionized truck driver in Alberta in May 2013 was $39.18 (averaged between workers in Calgary and Edmonton). Plumbers earned 44.10 per hour, whereas electricians did even better at $45.37 per hour. The average wage of all Alberta employees paid by the hour—unionized and nonunionized— is $25.68.
But the rate of growth for unionized construction workers over the past three years has been surprisingly weak. Compared to May 2010, the average hourly wage for truck drivers is up only $1.68 per hour (+4.5 per cent). Electricians have seen their wages rise by $1.88 (+4.3 per cent) and plumbers by only $1.16 (+2.7 per cent). Over that same three-year period, average hourly wages of all employees in the province have risen by $2.44 per hour—an increase of 10.5 per cent.
Some of the relative weakness in wages may be due to delays in contract negotiations and some may just be wages catching up with reality. Even though unionized construction workers’ wages have not increased much in the last three years, over the last twenty years truck drivers’ wages are up 79 per cent; wages for electricians and plumbers are up about 90 per cent. Over those same two decades, inflation in Alberta grew by only 59 per cent.*
*Courtesy of Todd Hirsch, Chief Economist, ATB Financial