The Fair Work Commission must use its annual review of the minimum wage to lift it by $30 per week and start to close the pay gap which is hurting low-paid workers.
Hearings began in the FWC today to consider the ACTU's submission to raise the minimum wage from $15.96 per hour to $16.75, or $636.40 per week.
ACTU President Ged Kearney said wages of low-paid workers had been falling behind for a decade and a $30 per week rise would stop them falling further behind.
"Since 2000, the National Minimum Wage had fallen from 50% of average weekly full-time earnings to 43.4%," Ms Kearney said.
"A $30 per week rise would be a moderate, affordable increase that will stop 1.5 million workers from falling further behind.
"Despite this the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry are calling for a pitiful $5.80 per week increase, hardly enough to buy lunch, let alone cope with the increasing cost of living."
"Last year's wage rise was absorbed by business and the economy continued to grow. Wages growth has been steady but not excessive across the economy and inflation is low. Now is the time to look after the urgent needs of low-paid workers.
"We are talking about cleaners, hospitality staff, unskilled labourers and thousands of other workers who keep our economy and society functioning.
"Any further decline in the relative living standards of these low-paid workers will put in jeopardy the concept of a fair safety net of minimum wages.
"The rise of insecure forms of work in Australia – which sees millions of workers in jobs with unpredictable working hours and no access to sick leave or annuals leave – make a decent minimum wage more important than ever.
"A decent minimum wage is an important protection for workers which will help prevent the emergence of a US-style working poor."
Ms Kearney said the $30 per week rise would directly benefit 745,000 workers. The ACTU is simultaneously seeking a 4.2% pay rise for a further 792,000 Award-reliant workers.
"Wage rises across the board have not kept up with productivity growth. This is especially the case for low-paid workers."
"The Fair Work Commission must recognise the need for wage justice for the lowest-paid."
Ms Kearney said there was nothing in last week's Federal Budget that had caused the ACTU to alter its submission to this year's wage review.
Ben Ruse 0409 510 879