Wage Expectations for 2013

The recovery from the 2008-2009 recession has been tepid at best, and has disappointed many.  Coming out of such deep recessions we have historically seen accelerated growth for several years, which has somewhat softened the pain of recessions and enabled businesses large and small to recover their losses.  This tepid recovery is projected to develop into slower growth long-term, as has been concluded in independent evaluations by a leading economist and a leading money manager, according to the WSJ article “U.S. Stocks: Look Out Below?”  While not the point of the WSJ article, this slower economic growth will directly and necessarily reduce the wealth creation of firms, which will directly and necessarily impact wage expectations for 2013 and beyond.

The first impact that this slower growth will have on wage expectations is through an increased gap between the income earned by the top tier wage-earner and rest of the workforce.  While not desirable for the economy, this will be the logical result of an economic environment that has less opportunity for growth.  This environment will increase the relative value of workers who are able to find opportunities for growth, especially those able to lead the implementation of expansion into new areas of business for company ownership.  The most critical of these will be the CEO’s and company leaders who are able to successfully implement these growth initiatives; the pay of these individuals will therefore increase due to this value that they are bringing to the ownership.

The rest of the workforce, meanwhile, will be pressured from two sides.  The flip side of the previous paragraph is that although the work they do is still important, it is not as critical because the Big Question will not be “How Can We Do This?” but more fundamentally “What Should We Do?”  On the other hand, the slower growth will reduce the availability of jobs and result in a higher unemployment rate.  As a simple matter of supply and demand, this slower demand will necessarily work against salary growth for the bulk of the workforce.

This raises the inevitable question of how wage negotiations must be managed especially with a unionized labor force.  Unionized labor forces in the long term have shown negative impacts to the profitability of a company, although they have been able to “negotiate” lucrative contracts in the short run.  This long-term negative impact has resulted in bankruptcies at GM and Chrysler, and most recently at Hostess.  A concept missed by the unionized labor force is the fact that if the growth in profit does not exceed the increase in value that the labor force provides such as through higher efficiency, the long-run viability of the business is at risk.  From the perspective of the labor force, the workers as a whole and every worker individually must pursue how he can add more value to his work for his employer, and this will be the only way to justify wage increases.

In a low-growth environment, what ideas are there to reduce the income gap?

U.S. Stocks: Look Out Below?
Hostess Preparing For Bankruptcy-Protection Filing
Right to Work Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be

How do you Plan for a Union Strike?

The U.S. economy is still weak and U.S. port strikes are not helping matters. The LA/Long Beach clerical union strike that lasted 8 days in late November-early December, 2012 shutdown a total of 10 container terminals, and caused a vessel and container backlog that showed its affects 2 weeks after the strike ended. The strike cost companies an estimated $1 billion in lost revenue per day of the strike. At a time when the last of the holiday imports are arriving to the U.S. and as stores are trying to make last minute sales, product/parts delays of any kind limit those U.S. sales.

On December 29, 2012 we may see a U.S. East Coast union strike, costing companies billions more in lost revenue since import/export containers will be delayed at the ports. As stated in the article, “Potential US East and Gulf Coast Port Labor Strike Could Further Destabilize International Trade”, in the maritime-executive, “Those not prepared for such disruption could face adverse operational and economic impacts including increased expenses, decreased revenues, loss of market share, and reputational damage due to their profit-driven strategy of keeping inventory levels low and the sudden and severe backlog and rerouting pressures caused by a work stoppage”. So those companies who were trying to limit carrying costs of inventory and who have moved production overseas, now may see a disadvantage of this strategy as potential port strikes become a reality.

Now many companies are looking at options to build up inventories and keep imports moving into the U.S. Since the issues on the West Coast are cleaned up and the strike has ended, some importers have moved vessels to the West Coast instead of the East Coast, causing extra transportation costs and shipment delays. Some U.S. companies have been building supplies of inventory in their warehouses, at the possibility that a strike could happen. A major factor in limiting supply chain delays will be increased visibility throughout the companies supply chain. Perhaps in the future companies will invest in warehousing at multiple port locations in order to create options in case of strikes or even use this as a reason to either keep factories in the U.S. or this will make a company think twice before outsourcing production overseas.

In the end union strikes are difficult to plan for, especially as there are extra costs in order to manage these possible risks. However, by having proper risk management in place and being ready for this type of situation a prepared company can take market share from those who are not prepared.




An East Coast Port Strike Could Have Devastating Impact


California Ports Strike Disrupts Holiday-Shopping Cargos


L.A. Port Workers Reach Agreement to End Eight-Day Strike


Potential US East and Gulf Coast Port Labor Strike Could Further Destabilize International Trade


Worries mount about possible East Coast port strike