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January, 1987, Vol. 110, No. 1
Labor-management scene in 1986
reflects continuing difficulties
The paramount issue in labor-management relations in 1986 was the same as it had been for several yearshow to deal with economic problems confronting both companies and unions. The focus of negotiations was on meeting the competition, especially from foreign firms in manufacturing and from domestic firms in construction, telecommunications, and transportation. To do this, bargainers concentrated on ways to restrain labor costs, increase productivity, and preserve jobs. New approaches emerged, and longstanding bargaining patterns disappeared as both labor and management sought to adjust to the shifting conditions in all forms of economic activity, ranging from individual plants to entire industries.
Efforts to restrain labor costs are reflected in major collective bargaining settlements (involving 1,000 workers or more) in private industry during the first 9 months of the year. Wage adjustments averaged 1.9 percent annually over the life of the contract. The last time the same parties settled, generally 2 to 3 years ago, the annual adjustment averaged 2.9 percent.1
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1 Preliminary statistical information for all of 1986 is scheduled to be released on January 27, 1987. Both the first 9 months and the full-year figures exclude possible pay adjustments under cost-of-living formulas because such adjustments are contingent n the future movement of a consumer price index.
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