ACTU Secretary Greg Combet today called on the Prime Minister John Howard to make good his comments to the media last week and guarantee that the real value of minimum wages would not be allowed to fall as a result of any changes the Government akes to the way minimum wages are set.

Ahead of tomorrow’s opening of the minimum wage case in Melbourne Greg
Combet said:

“Mr Howard was reported last week as saying:

‘We won’t be introducing reforms that cut real wages. I say we
are not going to cut real wages; if I say that, that is the same as saying they
are not going to be worse off.’ (Australian Financial Review, 7 April

“If the Prime Minister is serious, this is an important commitment. It
would mean that more than 1.5 million people and their families who depend upon
minimum wages could at least have hope that the real value of their pay will be
maintained in any reforms the Government may implement to the minimum wages
system” said Mr Combet.

Mr Combet said that he had written to the Prime Minister today seeking
confirmation that the Government will guarantee the maintenance of real minimum

“The ACTU is extremely concerned that the true reason for the
Government seeking to change the way minimum wages are determined is to allow
wages to fall in value.

This will reduce the living standards of working people many of whom are only
just keeping their heads above water,” said Mr Combet.

Workplace Minister Kevin Andrews has said that minimum wages are $70 per week
higher than they should be, and big business lobbyist Peter Hendy has said

‘If the tribunal we end up with delivers the same level of wage
increases that we’ve had in the past few years, it would be a
failure.’ (The Age, 7 April 2005)

“The ACTU strongly supports the current system in which the Australian
Industrial Relations Commission independently determines minimum wages following
extensive hearing of evidence and submissions concerning economic factors and
the needs of low paid workers.

There is no need to change this system. It works well and strikes a balance
between reasonable increases for workers and economic factors,” said Mr

2005 Minium Wages Case starts in Melbourne tomorrow. The ACTU is seeking a
weekly increase of $26.60 in the minimum wages which would lift the minimum wage
for an adult worker to $13 an hour.

The Federal Government and employers have opposed this increase and want any
pay rises capped at $11 a week which would mean a real wage cut for low income
workers and their families.”

Minimum Wage Cases 1996 –2005

Govt offer (nominal)
Govt offer – real value %

The federal minimum wage is currently $467.40. In 1996 it was $349.40. If the
Government offers since 1997 had succeeded, the federal minimum wage would now
be $44 a week less, at $423.40.

A useful link for other info for the media release is;