Employers resist union call for broad wage hikes

Employer groups are expected to mount a campaign against union calls for a minimum $30-a-week rise for 1.5 million low-paid and award-reliant workers, amid union claims that the raise is needed to avoid the creation of a US-style class of working poor in Australia, according to The Australian.

The ACTU is seeking a raise in the national minimum wage from $606.40 to $636.40 a week, marking the equivalent of a raise from $15.96 to $16.75 an hour, which would affect some 745,000 workers.

A further 4.2 per cent pay rise will be sought for an additional 792,000 award-reliant workers paid the C10 tradesperson's rate of $18.58 an hour or above.

ACTU secretary Dave Oliver said what would amount to the largest annual minimum wage hike under the Rudd and Gillard governments is necessary to narrow the growing gap between low-paid employees and the rest of the workforce.

Last year, the Fair Work Commission granted a hike of 2.9 per cent, or $17.10 a week, which was short of the ACTU's request for a $26 weekly raise for minimum wage earners.

In its submission to the commission, the ACTU will argue the national minimum wage has fallen from 50 per cent of average weekly full-time earnings to 43.4 per cent since 2000.

“Last year's disappointing decision pushed us further towards the creation of an American-style class of working poor in Australia,” Mr Oliver said, according to The Australian.

“Any further decline in the relative living standards of low-paid workers will put in jeopardy the concept of a fair safety net of minimum wages for people whose work is crucial to Australia's economy.

"With the rise of insecure forms of work in Australia, which sees millions of workers in jobs with unpredictable working hours and no access to sick leave or annual leave, safeguards like a decent minimum wage are more important than ever.”

But the Australian Industry Group dismissed the ACTU's claims.

“Business is struggling to cope with high costs and the high dollar, which have reduced their competitiveness,” the group's Innes Willox told The Australian.

“The superannuation guarantee levy will increase on July 1, the same date as the minimum wage increase will be operative. Any wage increase awarded by the minimum wage panel needs to be moderate and sustainable, and the ACTU claim is neither. Such a claim, if granted, would destroy jobs, not create them.”