Wage cuts and freezes in 1984 caused American workers covered by collective bargaining agreements to receive average pay raises of only 2.4%, the lowest in the 17 years that statistics have been kept, the Labor Department announced today.
The primary concern for labor union leaders in 1984 was to save jobs. As a trade-off, they often had to give up or reduce wage demands.
As a result of the preoccupation with job security, workers were hurt by industry trends that began in 1982 and 1983, the Labor Department said.
Wage increases, under collective bargaining contracts covering 2.3 million workers, averaged only 2.4% in the first contract year and an average of 2.3% covering the life of the contracts.
Previous lows of less than 3% were recorded in 1983.
When parties to 1984 contracts reached agreements at the bargaining table two to three years ago, average wage increases were 5.9% in the first year and 4.9% a year over the life of the contracts.
About 119,000 workers accepted first-year wage cuts averaging 9.6%, the department said. About three-fifths of them were in the construction industry and the rest primarily in air transportation and food stores.
Wage adjustments in 1984 construction settlements also reached a 17-year low, averaging 0.5% in the first contract year and 1% a year over the contract life.