The ACTU has stepped up its push to improve living standards for working families with a renewed focus on improving job security for casual employees, promoting reasonable working hours and lifting real minimum wages for award workers.

The measures reaffirmed by a meeting of the ACTU Executive in Melbourne today followed the release of new data detailing an historic upturn in union membership numbers and critical union density rates in growing industries around Australia.

A resolution passed by the Executive accused the Federal Government of hypocrisy for opposing the ACTU’s Living Wage claim for a $25 a week pay rise for 1.7 million low paid workers who had been hard hit by the GST and unfair income tax changes.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow and ACTU Secretary Greg Combet said unions strongly rejected a proposal by Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott to discount Living Wage increases for a vague promise of possible income tax credits.

“The Government’s offer amounts to a miserly $7 a week after tax and is simply unjust for low paid employees. Tax credits or other tax transfers are not an alternative to decent minimum wages. Low paid workers need significant real wage increases as well as a decent tax and welfare system to stop them falling further behind,” Ms Burrow and Mr Combet said in a joint statement.

“Mr Abbott today claimed that a family on the Federal Minimum wage with two children is $40 per week better off after the Government’s tax package. That is simply a lie because Mr Abbott’s figures do not take any account of the of the price rises caused by the GST or the fact that the so-called tax cuts were really just a hand-back of bracket creep.

Once bracket creep and price rises are taken into account, the ACTU calculates that:


  • a single person on the Federal Minimum Wage was $14.42 per week worse off after the Government’s tax changes; and
  • single income couple with two children under 12 years of age earning $25,000 per annum (just above the Federal Minimum Wage) were $7.77 per week worse off. “Mr Abbott also misrepresented the value of the ACTU’s Living Wage claim. A single worker on the Federal Minimum Wage will receive $17.50 after tax from the ACTU’s claim, much more than the Government’s miserly offer of $7,” they said.

    Today’s Executive meeting also backed moves to give long term casuals the right to permanent status and condemned the Government for trying to block the ACTU’s Reasonable Hours Test Case setting a Safety Net standard on unsafe and extreme working hours for all employees. Unions would also step up their campaign to have the Government’s industrial legislation expected in Parliament next week defeated in the Senate.

    Ms Burrow and Mr Combet said data showing union membership grew for the second consecutive year last year confirmed the importance of the ACTU’s industrial agenda for working families and of its organising program unions@work.

    Analysis of the Australian Bureau of Statistics data prepared for the Executive meeting showed union membership increased last year in nine out of 16 industry sectors while critical union density rates improved in eight major sectors.

    Ansett update

    Today’s Executive also backed continuing efforts to ensure sacked Ansett employees receive full payment of their entitlements as quickly as possible.

    Annual leave, long service leave, notice pay and eight weeks redundancy pay have been paid to around 7,000 employees, and the remaining redundant mainline airline staff are expected to receive these entitlements within four to eight weeks. Other entitlements will be paid as assets are sold.