Earnings in electric and gas utilities Essay

Occupational pay levels in the Nation’s privately operated
electric and gas utility systems typically rose 45 to 55 percent between
February 1978 and October 1982, according to a recent industry wage
survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By comparison,
wages and salaries of all private industry workers covered by the
Bureau’s Employment Cost Index rose 45 percent, and those of all
transportation and public utility workers rose 50 percent, between the
first quarter of 1978 and the fourth quarter of 1982.

Slightly more than 100 physical, office clerical, and professional
and technical occupations were selected to represent the utility
systems’ wage structure in the October 1982 survey. Average hourly
earnings among the physical occupations studied ranged from $7.51 an
hour for janitors to 16.27 for watch engineers, but typically fell
between $10 and $13. (See table 1.) Journeymen line workers,
numerically the most important physical occupation studied (23,938
workers), averaged $12.72 an hour. This compared with $9.17 an hour for
meter readers and $10.82 for gas appliance service technicians, two
other major groups. The physical jobs studied accounted for nearly
one-half of the 361,000 nonsupervisory physical workers within scope of
the survey.

Averages for the office clerical jobs studied ranged from $5.69 an
hour for messengers to $9.35 for secretaries, numbering nearly 10,000,
were by far the largest clerical group studied.

Hourly pay levels for professional and technical occupations ranged
from $8.68 for computer data librarians to $14.53 for computer systems
analysts. Drafters, the most numerous group, averaged $10.48 an hour.

Occupational averages varied by region and by type of utility
system. In general, averages were highest in the Pacific region and in
combination electric and gas system, and lowest in the Southeast and in
gas distribution systems. Table 1 illustrates the regional variations,
with the largest differences commonly associated with the lower paying
occupations. For example, janitors in the Pacific States averaged 47
percent more than their counterparts in the Southeast ($8.60 versus
$5.87), compared with a 36-percent differential for watch engineers
($18.26 versus $13.38), and one of only 18 percent for welders ($13.07
over $11.05).

Virtually all workers were in utilities providing paid holidays,
paid vacations, and various health, insurance, and retirement benefits
to physical and office workers. The most common provisions were 12
holidays annually and 2 weeks of vacation pay after 1 year of service, 3
weeks after 10 years, 4 weeks after 15 years, and 5 weeks after 25
years. Nearly all workers were eligible for life, hospitalization,
surgical, and basic and major medical insurance, and retirement pension
plans, Accidental death and dismemberment insurance, dental insurance,
and sick leave plans also were widespread in the industry, each applying
to at least two-thirds of the workers. Most of the health, insurance,
and retirement plans were paid for entirely by the employer.

Electric and gas utility systems within scope of the survey
employed about 521,000 nonsurpervisory employees in October 1982, an
increase of 9 percent

from February 1978. Over the period, employment grew 19 percent in
electric systems and 8 percent in gas distribution systems, remained
stable in combination electric and gas systems, and fell slightly in gas
transmission systems.

Slightly more than three-fourths of the physical workers and about
one-third of the office workers were covered by labor-management
agreements in October 1982. The major union for both types of workers
was the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (AFL-CIO).

A comprehensive report on the 1982 survey, Industry Wage Survey:
Electric and Gas Utilities, October 1982, Bulletin 2218 (Bureau of Labor
Statistics, 1984), is for sale by the Superintendent of Documents,
Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402. The report
provides additional information on occupational earnings and employee


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