The bills are coming in with higher numbers than ever, but our incomes are falling further behind. We need a pay rise. But how do we make it happen? We’ve rounded up the three best ways to get your next wage increase. Spoiler alert: all roads lead back to joining your union.
1. The Annual Wage Review
As you may already know, July kicked off with a 4.6 per cent increase for workers reliant on the minimum wage and Award wages. What you may not know is that this wasn’t enforced instantly across the board and workers in certain industries (namely air travel, hospitality and tourism) were awarded their pay rises on 1 October.
This was achieved through the Annual Wage Review, our once-a-year opportunity to advocate for raising the minimum wage through the Fair Work Commission.
These pay increases don’t appear out of thin air, but as a result of tireless campaigning by union members year after year to deliver a decent pay rise for millions of workers around the country.
The Annual Wage Review is one of the most powerful mechanisms at our disposal to ensure that those who earn the least aren’t left behind. We’ll never be complacent – and neither should you.
2. Enterprise bargaining
When workers stand together and negotiate with the bosses on pay and conditions, that’s when Enterprise Bargaining Agreements are born. The more workers who are union members, the stronger their bargaining power, the better the Agreements (for the workers, of course).
This system is not perfect though – far from it. In fact, updating industrial relations laws in line with modern workplaces is a top priority for the union movement. We know that employers routinely use loopholes in the current legislation to dodge their responsibilities to give workers a real pay rise. Intimidation tactics and vast casualisation of the workforce is par for the course, and we are fighting to make sure that they can’t get away with it anymore.
Nevertheless, collective bargaining is extremely successful in pushing for pay rises, and we know that union-backed EBAs do this far better. We have the stats to back this up, with pay rises for workers covered by union-backed EBAs consistently sitting at least 1 per cent higher than those under EBAs that haven’t been negotiated with union support.
Collective bargaining shows us that we can give power to the workers and force the hands of employers to give us tangible pay rises.
3. Putting an end to pay secrecy clauses
Deceit is a powerful weapon wielded by employers when it comes to denying workers their well-deserved pay rise. If your boss can legally mask the fact that your colleague – who is doing the exact same job – is actually taking home more pay, unfairness can grow unhindered in workplaces.
We’ve seen workers fired for discussing pay with their colleagues, all because their contract had a pay secrecy clause.
Women are the most impacted by this discriminatory practice. The gender pay gap in Australia sits overall at around 14 per cent for full-time workers and increases to a whopping 31 per cent gendered difference in pay for part-time workers. Pay secrecy is a huge catalyst for allowing this to happen.
“What pay secrecy clauses try to do is press the ‘mute button’ on that structural discrimination”, says Alison Pennington, a former economist at the Australia Institute’s Centre of Future Work.
“It prevents the information being gathered that is necessary to effectively bargain and put forward the case for your skills and your capacities.”
Joining your union is by far the most effective way to find out how much you should really be getting paid. The Finance Sector Union was recently successful in pushing the big four banks to do away with their secrecy clauses in an industry that alone sees a 29 per cent gender pay gap.
No one should be shamed out of having these important conversations in the workplace, and unions are here to make sure of that.
Joining your union is the best way to get a pay rise
On average, union members earn 32 per cent more per week than non-union members. There’s no two (or three) ways about it: the best way to get a pay rise is to join your union today.