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Pay levels in meat products reflect trimmed rates.

Straight-time hourly earnings of production workers averaged $7.80 in meatpacking plants and $7.61 in prepared meat products plants in June 1984, according to a study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These averages represent increases of 12 and 17 percent since a similar survey in May 1979. Average annual increases were 2.3 percent for meatpacking and 3.1 percent for prepared meat products, contrasting sharply to the 6.8-percent annual rate for nondurable goods manufacturing during approximately the same period.

The pace of pay increases in meat plants partly reflects wage concessions agreed to by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union in bargaining with a number of meat companies. These companies sought reduced labor costs to compete against newer, lower-cost firms with modern facilities and distribution methods. Concessions included reductions in base hourly wage rates, suspension of automatic cost-of-living adjustments (even though COLA clauses were retained in the contracts), and hiring rates set below existing levels. Some reductions in employee benefit levels were also negotiated at a few companies.

Seven-tenths of the meatpacking and nearly three-fifths of the prepared meat products workers were in plants with collective bargaining agreements covering a majority of their production work force in June 1984. Most of these workers were represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (AFL-CIO).

At the time of the June 1984 survey, meatpacking plants employed 82,948 production workers--down 20 percent since the May 1979 survey. Employment in prepared meat products plants was up slightly during the period--from 48,804 to 50,854 production workers.

The $7.80 average in meatpacking plants and the $7.61 in prepared meat products plants also represented broadly dispersed earnings in both industries. Hourly earnings of individual workers, ranged from the $3.35 Federal minimum to more than $14. The middle 50 percent of workers in meatpacking earned between $6.50 and $8.75 an hour, while the corresponding range in prepared meat products was $5.70 to $9.59. Large differences in skill levels required for the industries' varied manufacturing processes contributed to the relatively wide dispersions in pay.

Regional pay differences were also large, espeically for prepared meat products workers. June 1984 averages were highest in the Pacific States ($8.60 an hour in meatpacking and $9.03 in prepared meat products) and lowest in the Southeast ($6.22 and $5.70). The regions with the largest employments for both industries--the Great Lakes region and the Middle West--averaged $8.31 and 8.41 an hour in meatpacking and $8.76 and $7.16 in prepared meat products.

Seventy-nine occupations were selected to represent the various skills and pay levels in meatpacking and prepared meat products plants. these occupations accounted for approximately two-fifths of the production workers in each industry. Among these occupations, hourly averages in meatpacking plants ranged from $6.14 for washers who clean beef carcasses to $10.15 for maintenance millwrights. Jobs in meatpacking with at least 2,000 employees and their hourly averages were: shipping packers, $7.25; trimmers, $7.41; night cleaners, $7.76; boners preparing boxed beef, $7.99; and general maintenance workers, $8.85.

In prepared meat products plants, oclcupational averages ranged from $6.25 for hangers (bellies) to $11.26 for stationary engineers. Shipping packers, numerically the most important job studied in this industry, averaged $6.83. Other numerically important jobs (having at least 1,000 workers) and their pay averages included night cleaners, $7.46; slicing-machine operators, $7.52; truckdrivers, $7.90; ham boners, $8.71; and general maintenance workers, $8.90.

Virtually all production workers in each industry were in plants providing paid holidays, paid vacations, and at least part of the cost of various health and insurance plans. Retirement pension plans covered approximately two-thirds of the production workers in each industry. Seven to ten holidays annually were typical, as were 1 to 5 weeks of vacation pay (depending on years of service).

A comprehensive bulletin on the study, Industry Wage Survey: Meat Products, June 1984, may be purchased from any of the Burea's regional sales offices or the Superintendent of Documents, Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402. The bulletin provides additional information on occupational pay, such as earnings distributions and averages by type of company, size of establishment, and union contract status, and the incidence of selected employee benefits.
COPYRIGHT 1985 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Aug 1, 1985
Previous Article:Employment problems and their effect on family income, 1979-83.
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