This week’s Labour Cost Index statistics show the crucial importance unions are playing in protecting fair working salaries.
On average salary and wage rates, which include overtime, increased 2.0 percent in the year to the December 2011 quarter. However, education and training professionals working in the public sector earned pay rises of 2.4 percent on average. Public sector education workers are much more likely to belong to a union than workers in other sectors are. On average, these education workers have managed to win pay increases ahead of inflation (CPI was 1.8 percent for the same period).
Education and training professionals working in the private sector (where very few people belong to a union) saw their salaries increase by only 1.5 percent over the last year.
TEU national president Sandra Grey says the data shows there is clear benefit in belonging to a strong union.
“In the public sector, education workers received on average nearly a percentage point more than education professionals in the private sector. The big difference between those two groups is that in the public sector strong education unions like TEU have lots of members advocating for fair pay and working conditions.”
The Labour Cost Index surveyed employers asking them the reasons that they gave pay rises last year. Thirty-eight percent of employers who gave pay rises cited the existence of a collective agreement as a reason for doing so. By comparison, only 10 percent cited the need to keep staff, one percent gave pay rises to attract new staff, and 25 percent cited the need to match market rates.
“Employers are much more likely to give pay rises because a collective agreement requires them to than because they decide to out of a desire to hold onto their own staff or respond to what other similar employers are doing. Without unions and collective agreements, employers would lose a major incentive to lift pay-rates,” said Dr Grey.