Cheryl Stadnichuk | CUPE Research

Table: Comparison of earnings of job with 6 steps vs 1 step (click to enlarge)Ever wonder how multiple increments or steps in a wage grid affect earnings over a lifetime? It turns out more steps means lower income, especially in the initial years of working a job.

This is particularly important for CUPE’s members who are women. Numerous wage increments are far more common in female-dominated jobs. This means women workers must work longer until they make the job’s full rate (the last step on the grid). Employers like multiple steps because they save money on salaries and benefits.

The following scenario shows how those extra steps mean earning less over your work-life.

Angela and Fatima both work as administrative clerks for two different municipalities, Stepville and Onerate. In Angela’s collective agreement (Stepville) there are six increments in the wage grid. The starting wage rate is $15.16 per hour and after six years, the job rate is $16.41 per hour.

Fatima’s collective agreement in Onerate doesn’t have any increments in the wage grid. Years ago, her local successfully bargained the elimination of steps by arguing that workers should be paid the job rate of $16.41 an hour.

Assuming annual wage increases of 1.6 per cent, the table below shows that over six years, Fatima will earn $7,470.38 more than Angela, even though they do the same job with the same job rate.

It is not easy to negotiate fewer steps. Sometimes our members believe steps are a guaranteed wage increase or a recognition of their experience in the job. This is not the case, however, in many traditionally male jobs such as trades occupations, which only have one job rate.

What your local can do

  • Work with CUPE researchers to undertake an audit of your collective agreement’s wage grid from a gender perspective. This will help you assess if jobs primarily held by women have more steps than male jobs. Start the process by connecting with your CUPE staff representative. The more steps, the lower the income over a lifetime.