The benefits of the ACTU’s $13-a-week Living Wage rise for low-paid workers will be consumed by higher inflation from the GST and rising petrol prices.

“Even though the ACTU has again won a higher increase than the Federal Government argued for, John Howard’s meanness in opposing our case will push more working families into poverty,” ACTU President Sharan Burrow said. “This decision means a real wage cut for the lowest-paid workers.”

Ms Burrow was speaking after the Australian Industrial Relations Commission handed down its decision on the ACTU’s Living Wage application for a $28 a week increase for low-paid workers.

The AIRC granted a $13, or 3.25 per cent increase, taking the federal minimum wage to $413.40. Workers earning between $490 and $590 a week will receive a $15 a week increase, and those earning above $590 will receive $17. The $13 increase means a pay rise of only $9.10 a week after tax for workers on the minimum wage.

“We welcome any decision that puts more money into the hands of the lowest-paid,” Ms Burrow said. “But too many working people and their families are falling into poverty because prices are rising faster than wages.

“This is a harsh decision. Prime Minister John Howard could have made a difference to people’s lives. Instead, he took the mean option and opposed the ACTU’s case, making life even harder for the lowest-paid Australians.

“People have been hit very hard by Mr Howard’s unfair GST and soaring petrol prices. At the same time, the Prime Minister is about to help himself to another automatic pay rise of nearly five per cent, or about $200 a week.

“A rise of $13 for the lowest paid is not enough to help people make ends meet, and families will be the hardest hit,” Ms Burrow said.

“If Mr Howard was concerned about the rising number of ‘working poor’, he would have supported the ACTU’s case. This Prime Minister is out of touch with the needs of the
Australian people.”