The Maritime Union of Australia has blasted business leaders calling for an effective pay cut for the lowest paid in our community in their submission to the minimum wage case at the Fair Work Commission.
This came on the day the Senate passed an ALP motion to stop penalty rate cuts to workers in the retail and hospitality sectors and the Turnbull Government continued the Parliamentary debate to justify their push for $50 billion worth of business tax cuts.
The FWC minimum wage decision is due to be handed down on July 1 with the Australian Retailers Association making a submission this week arguing the minimum wage should increase by only 1.2 per cent this year.
That would be an effective reduction in real wages, as the annual rate of inflation is currently 1.5 per cent and would mean a worker on minimum wage would have their purchasing power cut over the next 12 months.
This all comes one day after new ACTU secretary Sally McManus used a National Press Club address to pitch for a $45 a week increase in the minimum wage in order to prevent the creation of a US-style class of “working poor”.
Two of Australia's largest unions, the SDA and United Voice, are seeking increases to the minimum wage of 10 per cent or more, well above the rise sought by the ACTU.
Meanwhile the Turnbull Government is urging the Fair Work Commission to take a cautious approach due an uncertain economic outlook.
McManus said in a Facebook post: "Their greed needs to be reigned in. Business groups are asking for our lowest paid to have a real wage cut.”
MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said: “The Australian public rejected the ridiculous plan to deliver massive tax cuts for the LNP’s mates in big business when they reduced their parliamentary majority to just one seat and nearly turfed the Prime Minister out of office in last year’s federal election.
“In an era of record company profits and absurd salaries for big business executives, employer groups now have the hide to call for an effective pay cut for those who can least afford it.
“This just shows their priorities once and for all and unions will, as always, stand up for those who need a decent wage to make ends meet by pushing for a substantial increase in the minimum wage."
The national minimum wage, the minimum base rate of pay for ordinary hours worked by employees who are not covered by an award or an enterprise agreement, currently sits just under $35,000 a year.
There are 2.3 million Australians who earn the minimum wage, an increase of more than 400, 000 from two years ago.
By the government’s own figures, low-paid workers are more likely to be female, under 30, single without children, working part-time or casual in retail or accommodation/food, in a major city, with no university degree.
Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman defended a 1.2 per cent increase by arguing it would combat high unemployment while easing costs for employers battling tough economic conditions.
The ARA said its submission was made in consultation with the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, while the Australian Industry Group is arguing for a 1.5 per cent increase.
In her speech to the National Press Club, Ms McManus argued for a much bigger increase, from $672.70 to $717.70 a week.
“Imagine what it’s like living on $35,000 a year anywhere in Australia, let alone in Sydney and Melbourne,” she said.
“In 1985, the minimum wage was nearly two-thirds of the average wage. Today it is well under half. This is dangerous for two reasons: It creates a class of working-poor that exists in the US. And a low minimum wage provides a big incentive for employers to destroy good, steady jobs, jobs that are fairly paid, by outsourcing them, cancelling agreements and using labour hire.”