Why it pays more than ever to be in a union
Since the financial crash, wages have been under pressure across the country. Food, energy, transport and housing costs have soared, to the point where in real terms, the average worker is £2000 worse off than they were in 2010.
Latest statistics show that private sector pay growth has now just about caught up with ongoing CPI inflation at 1.7%, but it’s still doing nothing to close the gap that’s opened up in recent years.
Where there’s good news on pay, it’s often down to trade unions. Collective bargaining deals are averaging about 2.5% since the start of 2014. Here are just a few recent deals:
- Unite and the GMB won a 3.5% payrise at Darchem Engineering in Stillington on Teesside.
- Usdaw have negotiated deals for 3% at Hermes, JD Williams logistics, Kerry Foods, Smith and Nephew Medical and Wincanton. Their members have gained 3.25% at Thomas Tunnock Bakers and 3.2% at Nairns.
- GMB members secured a 2-year deal equating to 5% on rates at Rangemaster in Leamington Spa.
- Equity achieved a minimum 6.5% increase in rates of pay at Disney for their tours in 2013-4. They also gained 6% at the Globe theatre, in all their productions, for the year 2014-15.
- Unison’s energy sector negotiated a 3.3% increase at National Grid and a pay formula based on RPI rather than CPI inflation until 2017.
- And unions have been striking a number of deals to move low paid staff up to the Living Wage of X (X in London). GMB members at cleaning firms Amey, Veolia, Norse and Enterprise have all won the Living wage, boosting their pay by 21%. Unite members working in cleaning at the National Opera House have gained as much as 30% on hourly rates in some cases with their Living Wage deal.
Across the private sector, the mean average wage is £449. But for union members, it’s £502. That’s a difference of 11.8%.
And the difference is even starker if you discount very high and very low earners by choosing a median average instead. That sees a private sector union pay premium of £33.5% over media average.
More than ever, it pays to be in a trade union, and it underscores a vital point that if we’re to see wages returned to the sort of levels we had before the living standards crisis, and plot a sustainable path out of the economic downturn, then stronger trade unions and collective bargaining will be a very big part of the solution.