The Fair Work Commission is once again conducting its annual minimum wage review. The decision will affect around 2.3 million workers nationwide.
Submissions have been made by both unions and employer groups. The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is calling for a $50 a week pay rise, the equivalent of 7.2%. If achieved that would bring someone who works full time up to $744.90 a week.
There is no question that Australia’s lowest paid workers need an increase of at least $50 a week. People are struggling to make ends meet because of increased costs of living and low wage growth.
A $50 a week increase is a pittance but the bosses have no interest in paying it. The Australian Industry Group made this clear by calling for a tiny increase of just 1.8%. When inflation is factored in this is not an increase at all.
The National Retail Association went further, suggesting a 0% increase! This would be an effective pay cut when inflation is taken into account.
If we really want to win a bigger share of the wealth we create, we are going to have to struggle for it. Years of politely asking Fair Work for a decent increase via submissions has not worked.
We need to take action that really puts Fair Work and the employers under pressure. We need an active campaign that includes strike action. While strikes would technically be illegal, ACTU Secretary Sally McManus has said that she does not see a problem with workers breaking laws when they are unjust.
The anti-strike laws and the fact that we have a ‘working poor’ at all is definitely unjust. A year into the job, we need Sally McManus to back up her words with action. This is the only way the low paid will win an extra $50 a week.
By Anthony Main