Public sector boasts higher trade union membership

By Angela Dorizas

A higher proportion of public sector employees belong to trade unions compared with private sector employees, according to the latest statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

The ABS found that in August 2008, the public sector employed a higher number of trade union members compared with the private sector. In the public sector, 42 per cent of employees were union members, while only 14 per cent private sector employees belonged to a union.

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) welcomed the growing number of union members.

CPSU national secretary Stephen Jones said the figures reflected a shift in the public sector’s attitude towards the union movement.

“After more than a decade of attack from the Howard Government, “union” became a bit of a dirty word in the APS,” Jones told GovernmentNews.

“But the fantastic achievements of the Your Rights at Work campaign and the removal of the unfair WorkChoices legislation had the potential to reverse the damage of the Howard’s years and helped move us forward.”

Jones said the global financial crisis was another factor boosting union membership as more employees were become increasingly concerned about job security and conditions.

“Around the world, governments are recognising the crucial role of the public sector in stimulating demand and helping economic recovery,” he said.

“But by continuing to impose an arbitrary 3.25 per cent cut across all agency budgets, the Federal Government is adding its name to the list of big employers shedding jobs and hampering recovery.

“In these uncertain financial times, it’s more important than ever for public sector workers to join their union and work together.”

The CPSU is now running a major campaign, including paid advertising and political lobbying, in an effort to protect essential public sector jobs and services.

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