The Fair Work Commission (FWC) recently announced a paltry minimum wage increase of $22 a week. The raise comes into effect in July 2017 and equates to a mere 59 cents an hour for full time workers. This is not enough for even the most frugal of people to get by on given the increased costs of living.
Almost a quarter of all Australian workers rely on minimum wage increases for their pay rises. For years the FWC has handed down tiny increases and this has contributed to the historically low wage levels that we have today.
According to the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) things are so bad that more than 1.5 million people work for a living but are still considered to be below the poverty line. What an indictment of capitalism it is that a huge portion of the population works but can still not make ends meet!
Despite noting that company profit growth was strong in 2016, and that wage rates had previously grown at less than half the rate of productivity, the FWC rebuffed the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) which had called for a $45 a week increase.
While the ACTU’s demand was itself modest, it was not taken seriously by the FWC as it only consisted of a written submission to the review and a few media sound bites. The only way to really put pressure on employers and the state to concede decent pay rises is by mobilising working people in an active campaign.
When profits are at stake employers and government bureaucrats do not listen to moral appeals about the plight of the working poor. The only language they understand is the language of protests and strikes. We need a return to industrial action if we are going to turn things around.
By Anthony Main