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Alberta workers least likely to be unionized

New data from Statistics Canada shows that Alberta has the worst union coverage of all the provinces in the country.

Earlier this month, Statistics Canada released their labour market survey results, which included a data table on union coverage. I was curious to see how workers in Alberta stack up against workers in other parts of the country.

Here’s a look at union coverage in each province for August 2022:

Total
employees
Employees with
union coverage
% with union
coverage
QC3,913,6001,477,60037.76%
NL219,90082,30037.43%
MB595,200202,90034.09%
SK499,700167,20033.46%
PEI77,90025,40032.61%
NS431,400133,60030.97%
NB345,100106,70030.92%
BC2,307,800678,70029.41%
ON6,649,7001,682,20025.30%
AB2,037,100476,60023.40%

Would you look at that. Alberta has the worst union coverage in the country.

Canada’s unionization rate overall was 29.47%, which is more than 6 percentage points above Alberta’s.

And it doesn’t matter if we look at public sector workers or private sector workers.

First, public sector:

Total
employees
Employees with
union coverage
% with union
coverage
QC993,100846,20085.21%
MB174,600141,40080.99%
BC538,000431,10080.13%
PEI25,30020,10079.45%
NS125,90098,20078.00%
NB102,40078,90077.05%
SK151,500116,60076.96%
NL73,50055,80075.92%
AB429,900309,70072.04%
ON1,473,3001,019,50069.20%

I mean, sure, Alberta’s public sector isn’t in last place for union coverage, but they are in second to last place and still more than four percentage points below the national average of 76.27%. We’re further away from the national average than we are from being in last place.

Now, the private sector:

Total
employees
Employees with
union coverage
% with union
coverage
QC2,920,400631,40021.62%
NL146,50026,50018.09%
MB420,60061,50014.62%
SK348,30050,60014.53%
BC1,769,800247,60013.99%
ON5,176,400662,70012.80%
NS305,50035,30011.55%
NB242,70027,80011.45%
AB1,607,300166,90010.38%
PEI52,6005,30010.08%

Again, Alberta is in second to last place, but this time, Ontario jumped up four spots, and PEI is in last place, just three-tenths of a percentage point lower than Alberta.

While Alberta is second-to-last place in both cases, they end up in last place overall because Ontario has a higher private sector union coverage rate and PEI has a higher public sector union coverage rate.

Here’s how union coverage breaks down by industry. Keep in mind that Statistics Canada doesn’t publish union coverage stats for the agriculture or hospitality sectors in Alberta, because they need “to meet the confidentiality requirements of the Statistics Act”.

Total
employees
Employees with
union coverage
% with union
coverage
Educational services116,60083,30071.44%
Public administration113,20068,00060.07%
Utilities23,20013,40057.76%
Health care & social assistance272,700148,00054.27%
Transportation & warehousing112,40035,60031.67%
Information, culture & recreation85,40015,00017.56%
Manufacturing117,50017,80015.15%
Construction182,80025,40013.89%
Wholesale & retail trade347,50039,50011.37%
Business, building & other support services53,7005,2009.68%
Other services (except public administration)82,9006,3007.60%
Forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, oil & gas128,7008,8006.84%
Professional, scientific & technical services156,3005,5003.52%
Finance, insurance, real estate, rental & leasing99,5003,2003.22%

Only 4 sectors have more than half union coverage in Alberta, and unsurprisingly, they’re healthcare, education, public servants and utilities.

Transportation and warehousing is the only other sector with union coverage above 20%, and 5 secors have union coverage under 10%, including oil and gas.

I also thought, since the Job Creation Tax Cut that the UCP legislated in July 2019 was supposed to create a bunch of jobs, that I’d compare union coverage for each province in June 2019, the month before the UCP cut the corporate profit tax by 33%.

Total
employees
Employees with
union coverage
% with union
coverage
QC3,836,7001,501,10039.12%
NL217,90080,60036.99%
MB574,900206,70035.95%
SK484,400153,60031.71%
BC2,250,600674,50029.97%
NS419,900124,80029.72%
PEI73,90021,80029.50%
NB340,80096,20028.23%
ON6,290,6001,640,70026.08%
AB1,982,800486,70024.55%

Alberta is still at the bottom of the list. Not only that, but union coverage has actually worsened in Alberta since corporations making more than a half million dollars in profit got a tax cut.

In a little more than 3 years, Alberta’s union coverage rate dropped by more than 1 percentage point. We were one of only 5 provinces that ended up with a lower union coverage rate during that period, and of those, we had the third largest drop in union coverage. Only Québec and Manitoba had larger drops than we did.

To be fair, however, Québec’s union coverage rate is still more than 14 points higher than Alberta’s and Manitoba’s is more than 11 points higher.

They may have dropped in their union coverage rate, but they had the highest and third highest rate in the country last month.

Alberta, on the other hand, lost union coverage, but they were already at nearly rock bottom.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news stories, focusing on politics and labour.

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