MPA comes out fighting over plumbing rates hype
THANKS to an ill-conceived piece of ‘research’ recently, the media went into a brief frenzy about WA plumbers charging the highest rates in the country.
The so-called research, released by online job quote site ServiceSeeking.com.au, caused some journalists to claim that plumbers earned more per hour than the average lawyer.
The potential ramifications for plumbers around the country were not good, so the Master Plumbers and Gasfitters Association of WA put out the call to associations in other states and our national body, Master Plumbers Australia, to set the record straight.
We found that rates depicted in media reports were in no way reflective of figures maintained by the industry associations around the country or those on dedicated pay comparison sites.
We also found that one or two overly diligent Eastern States journalists may have used some fairly creative research methods to determine that plumbers “earned” $87 an hour while lawyers earned $37. But it appears they are looking at two very different things. The plumbing rate is a derivative of what was quoted for certain jobs through the ServiceSeeking site, while the lawyer rate has been devised by dividing an average annual salary by the standard number of working hours in a year.
But there’s a big difference between rates that are charged for services and final earnings. If we utilise the same tactic to determine a plumbers’ average hourly earnings, we come up with a figure around $27/hour. Or, if we flip it and look at charge rates, lawyers sit at around $240/hour – and rarely does legal work only last an hour or two like many plumbing tasks.
Let’s face it - using an online job quote site to determine pay rates is much like using eBay to determine the average cost of living. What is more, while $87/hour might be an appropriate rate for longer projects and ongoing work, it’s not indicative of the rate charged to inspect and unblock a drain on a Sunday night and such claims did cause a few customers to question their plumbers who were charging considerably more.
Fortunately, our quick action to highlight the research flaws caused the short-lived media frenzy to rapidly die down.
Irrespective of the numbers, the MPGA strongly supports plumbers charging the rates they do in WA and Australia-wide. What needs to be taken into account is the important role of plumbing in the community.
The fundamental purpose of plumbing in Australia is to protect public and environmental health. For more than 100 years, the industry has focused on eradicating life threatening diseases such as cholera and dysentery by ensuring everyone has access to clean drinking water and effective wastewater removal. On a daily basis, we are dealing with significant safety issues ranging from gas and hot water supply to safe handling of products such as asbestos and lead.
Plumbers are required to undertake a four-year apprenticeship – the same time it takes to complete some law courses – and cannot go into business without significant further training and experience.
So we’d say we’re worth every penny – and certainly the rates charged are reflective of the specialist skills and equipment, potential risks and ad hoc nature of the work we do.
Elizabeth Quay sagas continue
WE HAVE kept a close eye on the ongoing issues at Elizabeth Quay that have resulted in infringements being issued to a number of plumbing contractors and kept the water park closed for months.
A timeline of events and further information is included in an article in the upcoming June issue of Master Plumber WA. What the whole saga does highlight is the importance of plumbing regulations and the potential fallout of not working within those bounds.
It has been a debacle to say the least, but arms us with substantial evidence to support our continued lobbying of State Government to uphold the strict regulatory control that governs the plumbing industry in WA.
MPA's May 2016 media release.