Workers score minimum wage increase

Australia’s lowest paid workers will receive an extra $22.20* a week in their pay packet.

In an announcement made by the Fair Work Commission yesterday, the weekly minimum wage will rise to $694.90* or $18.29 per hour. The increase will benefit the one-in-five Australian workers who rely on award wages and those employed by larger companies under enterprise agreements, which require employers to ensure staff are better off than the minimum wage.

However, it does not take into account that Sunday penalty rates for retail and hospitality staff will be cut by five per cent from 1 July 2017. The increase, which will apply over the next 12 months, amounts to 3.3 per cent – greater than the 2.4 per cent awarded last year.

Unions, using stagnant wage growth and low inflation as ammunition, had called for an increase of $45 per week, while employer groups had wanted to see an increase of around $10.

Of the increases, the head of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Sally McManus said, “The Fair Work Commission today made a decision to keep working people in poverty”.  While acting chair of the Australian Catholic Council for Employment Relations said, “Low income families will still simply not earn enough to provide for their children and lead a fulfilling, enriching life.

“The National Minimum Wage can no longer be described as a living wage.”

President of the Fair Work Commission, Ian Ross, acknowledged the increase would not be enough for some, but that it was at a level that would not deter employers from hiring new employees.

“The level of increase we have decided upon will not lead to inflationary pressure and is highly unlikely to have any measurable negative impact on employment,” he said.

Noting that it wouldn’t lift all minimum wage workers out of poverty, he did note that, “It will, however, mean an improvement in the real wages for those employees who are reliant on [the minimum wage] and an improvement in their relative living standards.”

*based on a 38-hour work week



Opinion: Age pensioners struggle on less than minimum wage

An increase for those who earn the minimum wage is good news, no matter which way you look at it. It only serves to highlight the unfairness and ineffectiveness of the rises to the Age Pension that have occurred over the last year.

On 20 March 2016, the single Age Pension was increased to $794.80, and 12 months on, after a rise on 20 September 2016, it was increased to $808.30 – a total of $13.50 extra per fortnight. As a percentage, these rises equate to 1.7 per cent, a considerable amount lower than the 3.3 per cent received by those on the minimum wage. Indeed, if an increase of 3.3 per cent had been awarded to those on the Age Pension over the last 12 months, the payment would be $821 per fortnight.

And let us not forget that the figures quoted above are per fortnight. While the minimum wage is deemed to be sufficient at $694.90 per week, those on the single Age Pension live on just $404.15 per week. Even when the Clean Energy Supplement and Pension Supplement is added to the payment, it still equates to just $444.15 per week for those on a single Age Pension.

By no stretch of the imagination is this fair.

Do you think that the Age Pension rises should be equal to those granted for the minimum wage? Or should the Government go one step further and make the Age Pension equal to the minimum wage?

Related articles:
Age Pension inadequate
Should you have to work until 70?

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