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How Unions Affect Unpaid Overtime

What effects do unions have in ensuring that employees are paid for any overtime hours they work?

 

Unionized Workers Less Likely to Work Unpaid Overtime (2000)

Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey (2000) micro datafile.
 

As the chart indicates, unionized employees are generally less likely to work unpaid overtime than non-unionized workers. Unions appear to have this effect across all industrial groups, save that of educators, health practitioners and social service providers -- indeed, overwork is a very common complaint heard by employees in those jobs. As our discussion about unpaid overtime noted, just over one in ten Canadian employees reported that they had worked unpaid overtime during their previous work week. In this respect, employees who are represented by a union fall below the national average in the vast majority of job types, with the sole exception of those employed in the education, health and social services sector.

By and large, employees who are not represented by a union are about twice as likely to work unpaid overtime as unionized workers. In fact non-unionized workers in utilities, transport and wholesale are three times as likely as unionized workers to work unpaid overtime (12 versus 4 percent), and in the case of manufacturing, five times as likely (10 versus 2 percent). In short, union representation appears to significantly reduce the likelihood that employees will perform unpaid overtime work.

 

Unionized Worker Work Fewer Unpaid Overtime Hours 

Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey (2000) micro datafile.
 

In addition to being less likely to perform unpaid overtime, those represented by a union tend to work fewer unpaid overtime hours. The chart above shows the percentage of the total number of aggregate overtime hours, by industry and union status, for which employees were not paid in 2000. As the chart clearly illustrates, unions appear to play a significant role in curbing the number of unpaid overtime hours worked in the vast majority of industries. For instance, while 79 percent of all overtime hours worked by non-union public administration employees were unpaid, only 47 percent of all overtime hours worked by unionized workers were unpaid.

Another way of looking at this is to express these differences in terms of the amount of overtime hours for which employees are compensated. In the case of manufacturing, 94 percent of all overtime hours worked by unionized employees were paid overtime. Conversely, for non-union workers in manufacturing, only 57 percent of all overtime hours worked were paid.

In short unions appear to play a key role in ensuring that workers are paid for overtime hours worked. The sole exception is workers in education, health and social services, where the vast majority of overtime performed is unpaid, irrespective of union status.

 

Effects of Unions on Overtime hours

Unionized Men Tend To Work Fewer Unpaid Overtime Hours

Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey (2000) micro datafile.
 

Unionized Women Tend To Work Fewer Unpaid Overtime Hours

Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey (2000) micro datafile.
 

Unions have the biggest impact on reducing the amount of unpaid overtime in clerical, technical, sales and service, and blue-collar occupations. In contrast, the vast majority of overtime hours worked by professionals and managers are unpaid, regardless of their union status. Moreover, managers and professionals are among the most likely to work long hours (see Long Hours of Work). Union density rates are also very low for these occupations, in the order of 10 percent (see Union Membership).

The high number of unpaid overtime hours worked by managers and professionals reflects certain aspects of these jobs that sets them apart from technical, clerical, sales and service and blue-collar occupations. Partly it reflects the type of work performed by many managers and professionals, work that often is amenable to 'working at home' - something that has become easier with the spread of computer technology. Managers and professionals also tend to be salaried employees. Since they do not 'punch the clock' like other workers, their overtime is, at least to some extent, not 'officially' accounted for. They tend to be paid for the job they perform, rather than for the hours they work.

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