Cameron Slater was a bit embarrassed when it was pointed out to him that the ‘fast rising wages’ he claimed showed there was no wages crisis were in fact union wages and non-union wages are rising more slowly. So, he’s trotted out some other dodgy number that is supposed to make us believe what we all know is false – that wages are rising faster than the cost of living, and union wages are rising slower than non-union wages.
I don’t waste time on Slater’s newest graph except to say he’s mashing two different years’ figures together and he’s going so far back he’s trying to get National to claim credit for most of Labour’s third term.
Anyway, I wanted to see if we could get a really good record of how union wage increases compare to non-union wage increases over time. Our old mate Marty helped out with this one. Here’s what he did – “using the distribution of wage increases in the Labour Cost Index and the reasons for wage increases (if the reason is “collective agreement” it must be a union member benefiting) and the DoL figures on union density, calculate the % of the workforce that is union and non-union for each division of wage increases, from there calculate average wage increase for union and non-union workers. Repeat a whole bunch of times.”
And here’s the result:
So, union wage rises beat non-union every time. I’m not sure why that should even be slightly controversial, much less outrageous to the Right. It’s basic market theory, after all. If workers bargain individually they are in perfect competition with each other and become price takers. If they bargain together, they can exercise market power to balance the market power of the employer. Hence the saying: “united we bargain, divided we beg”.
I thought the Right understood markets….
In fact, they do, and that’s exactly why the neoliberals are so keen on breaking the unions and why John “love to see wages drop” and the bosses are making a big anti-union play this term. They know that unions mean higher pay. But they don’t want you knowing that.
Without unions, wages would have increased only around 13% since the end of 2005 (probably much less because so much of the raises non-union workers get is pass-on of union wins and unions fight strongly for minimum wage hikes) when they have actually increased by 16.6%. With total employee pay being about $90 billion a year, that 3.6% difference would have been over $3 billion a year out of working families’ pockets and into the profit lines of the business elite.