Unions will seek a wage rise of $30 a week for Australia's lowest paid workers in this year's Annual Wage Review, with new evidence that they are slipping further and further behind the rest of the workforce.
In a submission to be lodged with the Fair Work Commission later this week, the ACTU will seek to increase the National Minimum Wage to $636.40 a week.
This would mean a 79c per hour increase from $15.96 per hour to $16.75 per hour. For other Award-reliant workers above the benchmark tradesperson's rate, unions will seek a 4.2% pay increase.
ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver said the time had come to stop the decline in the relative earnings of low-paid workers. He said that since 2000, the National Minimum Wage had fallen from 50% of average weekly full-time earnings to 43.4%.
Mr Oliver said the performance of Australia's economy meant the claim of $30 a week for the National Minimum Wage was affordable and reasonable.
"Last year's disappointing decision by the Fair Work Commission pushed us further towards the creation of an American-style class of working poor in Australia," Mr Oliver said
"Any further decline in the relative living standards of low-paid workers will put in jeopardy the concept of a fair safety net of minimum wages for people whose work is crucial to Australia's economy.
"With the rise of insecure forms of work in Australia – which see millions of workers in jobs with unpredictable working hours and no access to sick leave or annual leave – safeguards like a decent minimum wage are more important than ever.
"Last year's wage rise was absorbed by business and our economy continues to grow, with relatively low unemployment and rising profits, but wages have failed to keep up with productivity growth – especially the wages of the lowest paid.
"Low-paid workers rely solely on unions to fight in their corner for a decent wage, and that's why we are seeking a $30 pay rise for them this year.
"This would be a moderate, affordable increase that on its own would not restore the ground lost by low-paid workers in the past decade, but it will stop these 1.5 million workers from falling further behind."
The claim for $30 would benefit about 745,000 workers, including about 32,200 on the National Minimum Wage. A pay rise of 4.2% will be sought for a further 792,000 Award-reliant workers who are paid above the C10 tradesperson's rate. In total, about 16% of employees depend on the wage increased obtained by the ACTU through Annual Wage Reviews.
Last year, the then-Fair Work Australia granted a 2.9% across the board wage rise, well short of what unions had been seeking, and well short of the increase in average wages.
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