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Economic figures show Australia can afford a decent wage rise for our lowest paid

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Economic figures show Australia can afford a decent wage rise for our lowest paid

04 May, 2011 | Media Release Despite scare-mongering from big business, Australia’s strong

economic figures confirm a $28 a week pay rise for Australia’s lowest paid workers is modest and affordable.

ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said business groups’ opposition to a fair wage rise for the one in six Australian workers dependent on award minimum wages was motivated by self-interest.

The ACTU has lodged an updated submission to Fair Work Australia’s annual wage review, in reply to other interested parties, including the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Australian Industry Group.

“Business groups are this year effectively saying exactly what they said last year - that allowing the lowest paid workers to participate in economic growth will send business to the wall,” Mr Lawrence said.

“Not only did that not happen last year when Fair Work Australia lifted the minimum wage by $26 a week, but the Australian economy has continued to outperform most of the developed world. Economic growth continued around the long-term average, unemployment is on the decline, wages growth is solid but sustainable and productivity has risen.

“If this is what happens when business groups say Australia cannot afford to fairly pay our workers on the lowest incomes, then they need to change the broken record.”

Mr Lawrence said independent research conducted by the Workplace Research Centre shows that employers generally don’t budget for minimum wage increases and that the $26 increase awarded in 2010 had very little impact on award-reliant businesses.

“Business groups would have Australians believe that wage increases will stall economic growth, but the evidence proves they are not only wrong but they are trying to stymie any opportunity for the nation’s lowest paid workers to share in our strong economic prosperity.

“They are effectively calling on Fair Work Australia to slash the wages of those who need an increase the most.”

The ACTU’s wage claim is for a $28 a week increase in the National Minimum Wage and in other award minimum wages up to the benchmark tradesperson’s rate; and a 4.2% increase for other award workers.

The pay increase would lift weekly wages from $569.90 to $597.90 - a 74c/hour increase from $15 an hour. The ABS’ cost of living index jumped 4.5 per cent in 2010.

“By contrast, the big employer groups are offering a real cut in wages for the low-paid,” Mr Lawrence said.

ACCI’s submission to the minimum wage review equates to a real wage cut of $9.30 a week for minimum wage earners and $12.40 for the trade rate when CPI is taken into account. AIG’s submission equates to a real wage cut of $4.81 for minimum wage earners and $7.90 for the trade rate.

“What we are seeking will help to bridge a gap that has become too wide,” Mr Lawrence said.

Contact Details Rebecca Tucker Ph: 0408 031 269