The Union Advantage – $5.00 Difference

The Canadian trade union movement is all about improving the everyday lives of working people. Better wages and benefits. Better pensions. Longer vacations.

$5.57 more per hour: When it comes to wages, union members make $5.57 per hour more than non-union workers (Source: Statistics Canada). The difference is even greater for female employees who generally earn almost $6.00 more than their non-unionized counterparts.

That’s over $220 per week, and buys groceries for a family of four.

Union Workers Earn $5.57/hour More Than Non-Union. That's an annual vacation. Or two.
Union workers earn $5.57/hour more than non-Union. That’s an annual vacation. Or a mortgage.

But unions mean more than higher wages. Through collective bargaining, they typically make wages more equal among workers, and therefore ensure that less people are left with low paid jobs.

Better benefits

Benefits such as a pension plan, medical plan and dental plan have a big impact on quality of life. Unionized jobs provide better benefits, across the board, for both men and women. For example, in 1995:

  • 79% of working women (represented by a union) had a pension plan
  • Only 32% of working women (without a union) had a pension plan
  • 78% of working women (with a union) had a medical plan
  • Only 40% of working women (without a union) had a medical plan
  • 72% of working women (with a union) had a dental plan
  • Only 38% of working women (without a union) had a dental plan

Longer vacations

When it comes to vacations and paid holidays (such as Easter, Christmas and Thanksgiving), unionized workers come out ahead. More than 7 out of 10 unionized workers had 11 or more days of paid holidays during the calendar year.  Seven out of 10 unionized workers also had at least 4 weeks of paid vacation after 8-10 years of service. Without a Union, vacations cap at three weeks per year (after five years).

Better pensions

A pension plan is a key component in a persons’ ability to maintain a decent income after retirement. In 2000, senior Canadians with access to a pension had an average income twice as high as those without a pension – $28,000 versus $14,000.

While 43 percent of all Canadian employees have a pension plan at work, about 80 percent of unionized workers have access to one as opposed to only 27 percent of non-union workers.


Believe it or not, it wasn’t that long ago that working people couldn’t count on a weekend. Even the 40-hour work week is a relative newcomer to the workplace. Two generations ago, only five provinces had laws limiting the number of hours your boss could make you work.

Unions made the difference. It took a sustained effort on two fronts: bargaining with employers, and then putting pressure on governments. But working people carried the day, winning limits on work hours and the five-day work week.

Source: Canadian Labour Congress