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Pace of wage increases was sharply slower last year

Wage increases negotiated by unions in 1983 averaged only 2.8 percent a year, the lowest level since the government began keeping collective bargaining records, reports Monitor contributor Ed Townsend. Raises in the first year of new contracts averaged 2.6 percent, according to the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics. Second- and third-year raises generally were a little larger.

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The settlements covered 3 million workers. The average was held down by wage cuts or freezes in concessionary bargaining: About 460,000 workers - most of them in steel, transportation, or construction industries - agreed to pay cuts that averaged about 6.7 percent in the first year of new contracts. An estimated 300,000 of these will get wage increases in second and third contract years.

At the 2.6 percent first year average, increases were below the 3.8 percent rate of inflation in 1983.

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