Recent unemployment figures have revealed the human face of the global economic crisis. In June, while the Rudd Government told us of the sterling job they were doing handling the economy, 21,400 full time workers lost their jobs. The unemployment rate is now standing at 5.8 per cent, the highest rate in six years.
This was confirmed by Australian Bureau of Statistics data that stated those looking for full time work grew to more than 501,000. Also highlighted was the shift from full time to part time and casual jobs. On top of job losses many people are having their hours cut. Underemployment – when people cannot get enough hours of work to survive – is also on the rise.
To add insult to injury, just a few weeks after the release of these figures the lowest paid workers in Australia were denied a pay increase by the ironically named ‘Fair Pay Commission’. In effect this means the 1.3 million workers on the minimum wage are receiving a pay cut as their wages stagnate while the cost of living increases.
The Commission stated that based upon a survey of business groups this action would ‘save jobs’ in the face of economic crisis. There is absolutely no evidence to back this claim up. The reality is that holding down wages means profits are protected while ordinary people are made to pay for a crisis they did not create.
While the Rudd Government has spoken out against the decision and blamed the Howard appointed commission, they have done nothing to change the way the minimum wage is set. The Government even refused to say how much they thought the minimum wage should be increased in its submission to the Commission. Such is their lack of concern for the lowest paid.
As any brief economic improvements to the economy generated by the stimulus packages fade, more and more bosses are planning to sack staff. Job losses in the next quarter are predicted to be worse than the previous three. This will mean a growing list of working class casualties as people are unable to maintain mortgage repayments, car repayments and struggle to find support from under-funded welfare services.
Unfortunately the trade union movement has failed to outline any plan to fight against job losses and cuts to wages and hours. The Socialist Party calls on the union movement to ensure that workers are not forced to pay for the capitalist crisis. An action program that includes fighting against every redundancy with industrial action should be the starting point. We also need to campaign for shorter hours without a loss in pay. This would share out the work and create thousands of new jobs.
The future under capitalism means more unemployment and wage freezes for working people. In order to secure a decent future we need to fight against the effects of the crisis while campaigning for a better way of running society. The alternative to the mess of capitalism is socialism – a system that puts people before profit and uses the wealth created to provide for all.
By Socialist Party reporters