Canadians in non-union jobs can expect average wage increases of 3.2 per cent next year, and even more if their bosses consider them top performers, a salary survey suggests.

The latest Canada compensation planning survey from Mercer, employers are increasingly rewarding their most valuable workers with above-average wage increases.

Top-ranked employees – about six per cent of the workforce this year – got an average pay hike of 4.9 per cent, the Mercer survey found, while the two per cent of the workforce managers categorized as the weakest performers  got a nominal increase of only 0.1 per cent – well below the current annual inflation rate of 1.3 per cent.

'Differentiating salary increases based on performance is the norm' —Iain Morris, Mercer

Next year, Mercer expects seven per cent of the workforce will be top performers who will enjoy above-average pay increases.

"Differentiating salary increases based on performance is the norm and remains an effective way for employers to wisely spend their reward dollars on the most impactful employees," said Iain Morris, leader of Mercer's human capital consulting business for Canada.

Overall, that 3.2-per-cent average wage increase forecast for 2013 is unchanged from actual pay hikes seen in the non-union sector this year and is up slightly from the 3.0 per cent hike seen in 2011 and 2.9 per cent in 2010.

Among industries, the highest pay increase – 4.2 per cent – is forecast for the oil and gas sector. The lowest forecasts belong to the high tech/telecom sectors (2.4 per cent) and in the public sector/non-for-profit areas (2.5 per cent once salary freezes are included).

Pay increases in Western Canada are expected to lead the way, with average pay hikes of 3.3 per cent in Alberta.

To arrive at its estimates, Mercer surveyed more than 750 employers across Canada and reflects the pay of about two million non-union workers.

Union workers make more

A Statistics Canada average hourly wage survey released earlier this month found the average year-over-year wage increase among the country’s 15.1 million employees was 3.6 per cent in July.

Among the 4.57 million unionized workers, the average wage was $26.83 an hour in July, up 3.0 per cent in the past year. Among the 10.51 million non-union employees, the average wage was $21.79 an hour – up 3.8 per cent year-over-year.

So the average hourly wage gap between unionized and non-unionized employees was $5.04 an hour, according to Statistics Canada data.

But the Canadian Labour Congress, which says median wage figures are a better indicator of that difference than average wages, says the gap is closer to $7 an hour.