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Aussie ‘fair go’ elusive for our lowest paid workers

04 June 2014 By ACTU

Australia's 1.5 million low paid workers and their families are facing tough times ahead following the Fair Work Commission's decision to only raise the minimum wage by $18.70 a week.

140604-raise-the-wage-decent-wageACTU Secretary Dave Oliver said the decision is particularly unfair considering today's National Accounts figures show the economy to be strong, with productivity up, but wages falling behind.

"This decision, in light of today's economic figures and off the back of a horror federal budget that targeted low paid workers as well as the threat by the Abbott Government to cut the minimum wage every year for ten years, is a blow to those in our community who are already finding it hard to make ends meet," Mr Oliver said.

"These workers and their families were looking for a wage increase that would help them get ahead.

"Today's decision means that low paid workers including cleaners, retail and hospitality staff, child care workers, farm labourers, and factory workers will fall even further behind the rest of the workforce.

"Decisions like these make it hard to lay claim to Australia being the country of the 'fair go'.

The ACTU had sought a reasonable and affordable increase of $27 per week and a 3.7% increase for people employed above the tradesperson rate.

Overall employers didn't want minimum wages to rise in real terms at all, having sought between no increase at all up to $10 per week – a real wage cut.

The Abbott Government didn't go into bat for an increase in the minimum wage which is unsurprising given they are considering a plan to cut the minimum wage every year for ten years.

Mr Oliver said that as a result of this decision, the national minimum wage will continue falling as a percentage of average weekly earnings from 60% twenty years ago to around 43% now – the lowest proportion on record.

"There needed to be at least a $27 a week increase if we were to turn around the alarming decline in the relative earnings of low paid workers and avoid creating an entrenched 'US style' working poor within twenty years," Mr Oliver said.

"Just today the National Accounts figures show that the economy is strong and productivity is up, but wages are lagging behind and today's decision will leave low paid workers lagging even further behind.

"What hardworking Australians can see is that at the heart of Tony Abbott's economic plan – which is to argue that wages are the problem with the Australian economy – is another lie.

"The economic story shows that the Liberals attack on penalty rates, the minimum wage and the Fair Work Act is about their ideology and not based on fact – because the statistics show a strong economy, productivity growth at an above-average pace and wages lagging behind.

"The fact is that Australian workers and their families are actually working harder and falling behind - and their own Government has a policy position to drive down wages, dismantle workplace protections and send jobs off shore.

"Hardworking Australians are not benefiting from the strong economy and they don't stand to benefit from the Federal Budget."

Media contact: Carla De Campo, 0410 579 575 and Eleni Hale 0418 793 885

Contact Details
Name: David Smith, ASU National Secretary
Telephone: 03 9342 1400
More info: ASU Minimum Wage webpage