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Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Union Membership in Private Sector Shrinks to 8pc

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Union Membership in Private Sector Shrinks to 8pc

UNION MEMBERSHIP – DECLINE.

Unions, in Australia, have suffered declining membership.

Can anyone imagine why?

Perhaps they find this phenomenon as mystifying as mass staff shortages or the excess mortality rate…

Union membership is now at 8.2% in the private sector,
down from 9.3% (over a 6-year period).

Public sector union membership has fallen from 33.7% (now) compared to 38.8% (in 2016)

The Financial Review, traditionally (conservative) opposed to unions, go on to provide an obvious (sampling) error, by providing existing union members for their dissatisfaction (rather than those who have left).
See Measurement invalidity: Non-representative population.

The ‘Morning Breakfast’ show, on ABC, is asking for your feedback on why union membership has declined.

Shall we tell them about the Teacher’s Federation?
(who complained loudly enough to get me off Twitter [for now…]),
or, more broadly,
The Australian Education Union (A.E.U)?

Feel free to read either of these (related/’Education’) entities’ submissions to the Teacher Shortage inquiry.

Have at them!

Cole the Sociologist
NATIONAL EDUCATION WORKERS (N.E.W).

– see Financial Review.


The nurses union, which took part in mass strikes in NSW last year, has the highest union membership with 322,065 members in 2022.

Union membership in the private sector shrinks to 8pc

Union membership in the private sector has shrunk to a record low of 8 per cent after a loss of more than 176,000 members over the past six years.

Data compiled for The Australian Financial Review by the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals 779,700 private sector employees were members of a union in their main job in 2022 compared to 956,200 in 2016 – a decline of 176,500 or 20 per cent.

The drop means union membership for private sector employees in their main job has fallen from 9.3 per cent to 8.2 per cent over the six years.

In the public sector, union membership as a proportion of the workforce is much higher at 33.7 per cent. There were 642,000 public sector union members in 2022 compared to 606,500 in 2016.

However, union membership is declining in the public sector too. The proportion of public sector employees who are union members has dropped from 38.8 per cent in 2016 to 33.7 per cent last year.

The drop means union membership for private sector employees in their main job has fallen from 9.3 per cent to 8.2 per cent over the six years.

In the public sector, union membership as a proportion of the workforce is much higher at 33.7 per cent. There were 642,000 public sector union members in 2022 compared to 606,500 in 2016.

However, union membership is declining in the public sector too. The proportion of public sector employees who are union members has dropped from 38.8 per cent in 2016 to 33.7 per cent last year.

Experts and some unions have invoked the low membership data, and the implied growth in non-members, to call for the return of bargaining fees for non-members who receive the benefits of union agreements for free.

Victoria Trade Unions secretary Luke Hilakari said that while affiliate unions had not discussed models for bargaining fees, the “free rider” issue was a long-term problem for members and union resources.

“The issue has gone on for long enough,” he said. “In the bargaining period the biggest gripe for union members – down to the member – is they will tell you we got a fantastic outcome, an agreement with thousands of dollars worth of benefits, but ‘Kerry’ and ‘Jimmy’ are getting those benefits, and they contributed nothing.”

It was “an issue of fairness” and analogous to “buying rounds at a pub but someone ducks off before trying to buy their shout”, Mr Hilakari said.

Blue-collar unions hit

While health, retail and education unions have substantially increased their membership in recent years, blue-collar unions such as the Australian Workers Union, the United Workers Union and the CFMEU continue to lose members.

But despite women dominating union membership overall, male private sector employees are more likely to be union members at 8.6 per cent in their main job (or 427,900 members) compared to 7.9 per cent for women (or 353,900 members).

ABS membership data released late last year showed membership in the overall economy was 12.5 per cent for employees in their main job, but did not include a private sector breakdown.

The breakdown provided to the Financial Review showed another 94,000 workers in the private sector were union members but not in their main job. If they were included in the total, private sector membership increased to 9.2 per cent.

A submission by Unions NSW to the Jobs and Skills Summit last year called for the Albanese government to introduce a charge on non-members capped at 70 per cent of annual union dues. It would only be payable if a union agreement’s benefit to a worker was higher than the charge.

The Australian Workers Union also called for migrant workers to be made default union members.

However, the government has not put the issue on its agenda for the next round of reforms and the Australian Council of Trade Unions has not been lobbying on the matter.

ACTU president Michele O’Neil said the drop in membership was the consequence of anti-union laws and suggested the government’s recent changes, which included revamping multi-employer bargaining, would grow membership.

“After a relentless decade-long campaign of constant attacks on working people, anti-union legislation, discouragement of collective action and suppression of worker’s rights by successive conservative governments, it’s not surprising that union density has continued to decline,” she said.

“With the much-needed change in Australia’s workplace laws the ACTU is focused on lifting wages and improving working conditions for working people.

‘Free-riding in workplaces’

“Evidence shows that the best way for this to happen is for workers to be union members, as members earn, on average, $312 more per week than non-union members.”

Australia Institute economist Jim Stanford said that “Australia’s full legal protection for free-riding in workplaces is clearly another factor reducing the incentive to join a union”.

“If the benefits of a union contract are freely available to everyone whether they are a member of a union or not (as is required under Australian law), then only those with a higher level of consciousness and solidarity will voluntarily support the union that negotiated those gains,” he said.

Dr Stanford said other countries, including Canada, New Zealand and parts of the United States, had adopted bargaining fees and public subsidies to address the issue.

“In Australia, however, those solutions are all prohibited,” he said. “So it’s no surprise that union density is converging with US levels.”

Private sector union membership is 6.1 per cent in the United States and 12.8 per cent in the United Kingdom.

Opposition industrial relations spokesman Michaelia Cash said that “these numbers are further proof of what we’ve been seeing for years in Australia and show the dwindling relevance of the union movement in this country”.

“Australians have the absolute right not to join a union and should never be forced to pay fees to unions they don’t want to join,” she said.

She said unions demanded bargaining fees when Labor was last in government, and it was “rightly shelved by the then deputy prime minister Julia Gillard”.

“The government should be upfront with Australian people and do the right thing and shelve it again,” she said. “The unions want to treat employment and having a job as some exclusive club and make themselves the beneficiaries.”

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Andrew McKellar said Australians were “not going to cop paying a compulsory tax to unions for so-called services they didn’t ask for and don’t use, to subsidise unions they have actively chosen not to join”.

“The 92 per cent of working Australians in the private sector who chose not to join a union are not going to subsidise the 8 per cent – that’s no one’s idea of a fair go.”

Resources:
https://t.me/TheAustraliaProject/2983
https://www.afr.com/work-and-careers/workplace/union-membership-in-private-sector-shrinks-to-8-per-cent-20230112-p5cc42

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