Union boss claims Abetz effect

UNION boss Kevin Harkins says Tasmania will remain the most heavily unionised state in the country as long as Employment Minister Eric Abetz is in office.

But the Liberal Senator dismissed Mr Harkins's comments as a personal barb designed to turn attention away from falling union memberships.  

Figures released last week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that   24.5 per cent of Tasmanian workers were union members - easily the highest percentage in the nation.

But the August 2013 Employee Earnings, Benefits and Trade Union Membership survey also showed a drop in union numbers across the nation, including Tasmania, which lost 1.2 per cent of memberships in the space of a year. 

Unions Tasmania chief executive Kevin Harkins said the fall was part of a cycle, and he tipped numbers to stabilise as a result of federal government policies. 

``Job security is a major concern for most families in Tasmania, especially since this federal government was elected,'' Mr Harkins said. 

``Why are we so heavily unionised? Because Eric Abetz lives here. He has a strong record of attacking workers' rights.''

Senator Abetz said the union movement had lost focus and had become more focused on politics than its members. 

``For Kevin Harkins to blame me, when this decrease has happened under his leadership, that doesn't add up,'' Senator Abetz said.  

``Employees increasingly feel savvy enough to negotiate agreements and conditions without the need for an expensive intermediary.  

``If Kevin Harkins wanted to see why trade union memberships are falling, he only needs to look in the mirror.'' 

The ABS release also revealed that Tasmanians remained the lowest-paid workers in country.

An average Tasmanian full-time employee brings home $1200 a  week, compared with the ACT's  national high  of $1658.

Part-time employees in Tasmania earn $485 a  week, compared with the ACT figure of $672. 

Tasmanian men with full-time work were paid $206 more a week than women, while women with part-time work earned $47 more than men.

 ABS Employee Earnings, Benefits and Trade Union Membership survey August 2013 

 Tasmania is the most unionised workforce in the nation with 24.5 per cent (48,000 workers) belonging to a union. South Australia is second with 18.2 per cent. 

 Despite having the strongest representation, union memberships in Tasmania have fallen by 1.2 per cent since 2012, in line with national trends. 

 Tasmanians are also the lowest-paid workers in the  country, with full-time employees bringing home an average $1200 a week, compared with  the nation-high wage of $1658 in the ACT. A part-time employee in Tasmania nets an average $485 a week, with those in the ACT earning $672. 

 Tasmanian men earn an average $206 more a  week than females when it comes to full-time work. Tasmanian women earn an average $47 more a week than men when working part-time.

Federal Employment Minister Eric Abetz

Federal Employment Minister Eric Abetz

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