Most workers will tell you that their pay packet doesn’t go as far as it used to. The costs of living are rising but wage growth is extremely weak. Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that wage growth has been just 2.3% on average for the past year.
Low wages are not only a day to day problem for workers. When people have less money, they buy less goods. That has an impact on the retail sector which economists say is already in recession. Regardless of the official figures, the empty shops on most strips tell us all we need to know about how bad things are getting.
Even the Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe has begged the bosses to give workers pay rises. But while they like the idea of other bosses boosting wages, they are not prepared to sacrifice their own profits.
The Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work has said that wage growth could be boosted by more than $10 billion a year if Sunday penalty rates were restored in retail and hospitality, the minimum wage was lifted and public sector pay caps were scrapped.
These changes would indeed help but it’s clear that neither the bosses or the government are going to just hand over an extra $10 billion a year, even if it would give the economy a boost.
The only way these things will be won is if we fight for it. We need a union-led campaign for a $25/hour minimum wage, plus loadings and penalty rates to be restored in all sectors. The public sector unions should refuse to accept any pay caps and instead should demand pay rises that exceed the real cost of living.
Rallies and strikes could be organised in pursuit of these aims. This would not only put pressure on employers and governments, but it would help make the union movement relevant once again.
By Socialist Party reporters