Article dated 16 February 2002
Aus Pay Rates Part V

Despite our best efforts to bring this discussion to a conclusion
it seems that many of you have much more to say and therefore
like an NDT version of "Neighbours" we carry on ............

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"I am a pome, as the guy who co-ordinates this excellent site will know.
I have been reading all comments on OZ pay rates with great interest.
Not to sure how these new Victorian rates will fare but let me tell you
about my last 3 years here.

I used to be a self employed guy, working around Australia in different
States. I began in Perth and was there for one year. My rate was $32
per hour with accommodation provided. Pretty good I thought. From
there I went to Victoria with another NDT company. Initially I was in
Melbourne working at a chemical company for $36 per hour, all hours
with accommodation provided. Still great. NDT guys chat as they do
and I learnt that the full time employees on this contract had set rates
governed by the union. Someone with similar quals as myself (UT, MT,
PT, RT) was earning $24 per hour for a 40 hour week. The contract was
for a 60+ hour week, frequently 70 hours. The extra 2 hours per day was
paid at x1.5. Saturdays was x1.5 for the first 4 hours and x2 after that and
Sundays was x2. Every other Monday was an RDO (Rostered day off).
This was worked and was paid at x2.5. On top of this a travel allowance
was paid. To cut a long story short I lost out by $100+ per day. So the
rates may appear to be lower. But are they? I now work as a full time
employee in the NT for $35+ per hour plus overtime plus benefits. So
maybe you just have to shop around a little.

It will be a long time before I leave this country."

Ian Chambers - Australia (ex- UK)

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"While searching your site for some technical information on ultrasonics,
I came across the animated correspondence on NDT pay rates in Australia.
There are many contributions to the debate and everybody seems to have
an instant solution. If it were that easy, there would be no problem.

For every complex question there is always a simple answer, but
unfortunately it is always wrong. I write from the perspective of one who
started a family owned NDT company from scratch in Australia, grew it to
100+ permanent employees, and ultimately sold it and retired after a total
of 32 years in the business - 2 years as an employee and 30 years as a
business owner.

I agree that good, qualified NDT personnel are unappreciated, undervalued
and underpaid in Australia, in comparison to other technical people within
Australia as well as elsewhere. The reasons are wide and varied, and
come under a few headings.

Internationally:

Differences between Exchange Rates and Local Economies.

The Australian economy, whether we like it or not, depends most on our
ability to produce primary products and commodities in the mining and
agricultural industries. The economy has taken a real beating in the last
twenty-five years as it strives to restructure. With a landmass as big as the
USA and a population about two thirds of California up against the
economic muscle of North America and Europe, this has been a major
task for government and industry.

If we had this debate 25 years ago, before Australia floated its exchange
rate, and the Australian dollar was on parity with the US dollar, Australian
pay rates may have been seen as quite attractive. Comparing pay rates
and prices between economies is a pointless exercise. Just ask Australian
tourists accustomed to local rates what they think of the costs of
accommodation and decent food in US cities!

Image and Size of the NDT Industry

One can stand almost anywhere in outer Houston and see more oil
refineries than exist in the whole of Australia. We have only a derivative
aerospace industry and no nuclear industry except for one research reactor.
These industries have been the drivers for much of the higher end of NDT
in the US and Europe. The industry is still seen here by most people as not
much different from the mechanical and electrical trades. There is very
limited opportunity for the white dustcoats of a specialist NDT industry here.

Isolation (political and geographical) from other opportunities

Australia is isolated. Some opportunities do exist in Asia, and a number
of entrepreneurial companies are taking advantage of them, but this often
involves partnerships, technology transfer and preferential employment and
training opportunities for local residents. It is not as simple as buying a
plane ticket. This is a logical and wise development and protection policy
on the part of the host country. We read of skilled teams flying from say
Seattle to Denver or London to Dusseldorf, but flying from Australia to an
Asian destination is rather more complicated. In my working life, we did it
quite often, and it is becoming more frequent, but this is more the
exception than the rule.

We find also that many of our trading partners are happy to buy resources
they themselves do not have, but will not tolerate any value adding if it
threatens jobs in the buyer country - we can export iron ore and coal, but
we cannot export steel. We can sell raw wool, but not processed wool.
We have one of the most efficient grain growing industries in the world,
but there is no way we can regularly export significant amounts of grain to
protected markets in the US, Europe and Japan.

Pay arrangements and benefits - comparison of hourly rates

It is a tempting but irrelevant comparison to take some quoted pay rate
and translate it to another part of the world and Hey presto you can prove
whatever you want. Figures can lie, but liars can figure! In addition to
currency variations, there all sorts of variables in comparative pay rates that
are too complex to mention - from bare hourly rates to bundled rates with
provisions for sick and holiday pay, superannuation, redundancy, disability
allowances, long service leave, travel and motor vehicle allowances - the
list goes on. To just attempt to compare raw pay numbers is meaningless.

Union Leverage providing an unfair advantage

If some of the attractive pay rates quoted stand up, one must admire the
leverage and power of the negotiating unions, and also spare a thought for
the unemployed and underpaid that we read about who are struggling to
survive on 10% of the alleged NDT technicians rates. Perhaps the
powerful groups that are able to negotiate such disproportionate rates
are taking undue advantage of that power and damn the rest.

Within Australia

Professional development

There is an unwillingness to undertake any professional development
among most employees and employers in the industry. The hunger for
such professional development is essential in developing an industry and
is retarding the growth of NDT professionalism here. To think in the 21st
century that individuals can continue in a technical profession with no more
recent qualifications or training than the 1970s is fatal.

Engineers in Australia are required to keep their CEUs up as a matter of
course, but the NDT industry seems to want to live in the past and expect
parity. This is the responsibility of employers and employees to address.

Need to be a generalist - company and employee

Due to the small scattered economy and lack of major nuclear and
aerospace industries, the Australian NDT organisation must be a generalist
and the unfortunate result of that is that rates of pay and chargeable rates
are drawn relentlessly towards the lowest common denominator, and the
industry is often seen as a group of "bombers and thickness testers".
Despite the fact that there is some very high quality NDT being done, it
does not command a premium. This is an image that the companies and
technicians have to address in the way they present themselves, and
develop their skills.

And in Conclusion:

If this all sounds like a list of excuses, it is not meant to be - just a warning
that comparing apples with apples is a tricky business. Most of my fellow
business owners in the US and Europe have done much better than I have
out of 30 years in the industry, and I would have probably retired richer if I
had been a suburban newsagent. In spite of all this, Australia remains one
of THE great places to live, and there is no better sight than the Sydney
Harbour Bridge from the window of a returning 747."

Charles Pope - Australia

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"As a representative of the NDT employers involved in the negotiation of
the 2001 Victorian NDT Agreement, I hope I can add something useful to
the debate. This is really a story about how profit is linked to prices and
to wages. Companies only stay in business if they make a profit. Wages
are paid by profitable companies - don't begrudge a company making a
profit.

Prior to the 1990's, Australia's wages were set by federal awards with the
government "awarding" wage increases each year. Our clients were
subject to the same awards so prices rose with each wage increase
without much problem. This system was abandoned by the government
in favour of "Enterprise Bargaining" where wage increases were meant to
result from "productivity improvements" within each enterprise. Clients
didn't accept price rises as readily and tended to look for alternate
suppliers offering lower prices. Prices stagnated which was good for
reducing inflation but caused other problems. In general the NDT industry
was already reasonably efficient so it was hard to improve productivity
and pay increased wages. NDT wages stagnated too.

The later half of the '90's saw increased NDT competition reduce prices.
This, combined with a downturn in manufacturing and pressure on the oil
refining industry, caused profit margins to plummet. As Gary Martin has
said earlier in this forum, Australian Standards require NDT practitioners
hold current certification. To stay in business we need to conform with
Australian Standards and we needed price rises. The problem was, how
do you encourage better qualified employees if you cannot afford wage
rises? (The issue was complicated by industrial deregulation and certain
oil refineries which didn't require their work done to Australian Standards.
The same refineries have "Enterprise Agreements" that pay quite well
even to unqualified workers, so why would you bother getting NDT
certification?)

The Victorian NDT Agreement sort to address at least two things - to
define a career path and classification structure based on NDT certification
and to prescribe reasonable pay rates for NDT practitioners. We sort to
establish a level playing field on wages cost. The agreement was
negotiated with employers on one side of the table and the union on the
other, it had nothing to do with the AINDT. It does not matter much whether
a C9 technician is paid $20 per hour or $30 per hour if all NDT employers
are paying the same. We eventually agreed upon pay rates that were
consistent with other metal workers. An NDT C9 is now paid about the
same as a boilermaker; the amount of training and experience required is
roughly similar.

In Victoria we did get all employers to sign the agreement. I suspect this
was due the influence of the union. In Victoria, the metals unions have
considerable influence on most major sites. Because all employers
signed, we can be reasonably sure our competitors are incurring the same
costs we do. Hopefully our clients will afford us price rises and we can
stay in business and provide employment. If so, we have a win win result.
It may not be the same interstate where a non signatory might survive; and
so will the malaise of profit, prices and wages."

Hamish Sinclair - Australia

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"It is ridiculous to compare pay rates between countries , in God's own
country good techs are paid on average $20 AUD per hour, maybe more,
this equates to $800 AUD per week for an average 40hr week.  It costs
approx $30 AUD for 24 cans of good Aussie beer, $15-20 AUD for a
good steak meal , so based on this I can drink 24 cans of beer, eat a
good meal every night and still have $450 left over to pay the bills.

I guess all you guys will have to ponder this for a bit longer. By the way
did I mention the weather, beaches, girls, lifestyle etc etc etc.   Maybe
you should all stay where you are.   If I was you , I wouldn't consider
working here either !!!    Think about it !

P.S. I have not even mentioned cricket."

Happy NDT Tech - Australia

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Well there you have it ......... If British technicians cannot be tempted
back to the Northern hemisphere for higher pay rates, then Aus must
really have something special to offer.   So will Part V be the
conclusion of this article and allow us to take a look at the Canadian
ndt scene or does the saga go on ?

Comments on Aus or Canadian pay rates to support@ndtcabin.com
please .......... or Fax: 00 44 870 167 1975. 

 


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Conversion Rates
(Feb 2002)

Aus $ 32 =
US $ 16.56
UK £ 11.57
Can $ 26.31

Aus $ 36 =
US $ 18.63
UK £ 13.01
Can $ 29.60

Aus $ 24 =
US $ 12.42
UK £ 8.68
Can $ 19.73

 

Conversion Rates
(Feb 2002)

Aus $800 =
US $ 414
UK £ 289
Can $ 658

Aus Beer $ 1.25 =
US $ 0.65
UK £ 0.45
Can $ 1.03

Aus Steak $ 20 =
US $ 10.34
UK £ 7.23
Can $ 16.44