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May 1991, Vol. 114, No. 5
C ollective bargaining at the beginning of the decade of the 1990's took place in an atmosphere marked by continuing or emerging economic problems for some of the industries involved in negotiations, and growing concern about the health of the Nation's economy. Nevertheless, 1990 was the second consecutive year in which parties to collective bargaining settlements in private industry agreed to larger wage rate adjustments then were specified in the contracts being replaced. (See chart 1.)
Major collective bargaining settlements (those covering 1,000 workers or more) reached in private industry in 1990 provided wage rate adjustments (the net effect of decisions to increase, decrease, or not change wage rates) that averaged 3.2 percent annually over the contract life (table 1), compared with 2.0 percent in the contracts they replaced, which for the most part, were negotiated in 1987 or 1988. Average wage rate adjustments over the life of contracts settled in 1990, however, were still within the relatively narrow range of 1.8 percent to 3.6 percent annually that has prevailed each year since 1982. (See table 2.)
A broader measure of adjustments under settlements covers compensation rates, which include both wage rates and benefit costs. This measure, provided for settlements covering 5,000 workers or more, shows that compensation adjustments averaged 3.2 percent a year over the term of such settlements reached in 1990, also within the 1.6 percent to 3.4 percent range that has existed for the measure since 1982.
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