ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence will announce for the first time today (Wednesday) that unions will seek a $26 a week pay rise for 1.6 million Australian workers that rely on minimum award wages in this year’s national Minimum Wage Case.

Mr Lawrence says that a $26 a week pay rise for the low paid is economically responsible and will not add to inflation.

In an address to the National Press Club today (Wednesday 12.30pm) Mr Lawrence will also call for a curb on executive salaries, proposing an end to tax deductibility for salaries over $1 million.

Mr Lawrence said:

“Rising petrol, housing and food costs are putting working Australians under considerable financial pressure and workers that rely on minimum award wages need a real wage rise.

“Many working families are simply not benefiting from the mining boom or have been hurt by the loss of wages and conditions under the former Coalition Government’s Work Choices IR laws.

“More than a million low paid workers went backwards in real terms by up to $44 a week or $2,200 a year over the last three years, according to ACTU research.

“While in 2007 the Fair Pay Commission gave minimum award wage workers only $10 a week, it was recently revealed that Professor Ian Harper, head of the Fair Pay Commission personally got a pay rise of $38,000 a year, a 47% increase and 16 times the rate of inflation.

“How can anyone expect workers on average incomes to exercise restraint when none is shown by those being paid ten or twenty or one hundred times as much?

“Pay increases of corporate executives and directors have risen by an astronomical 30 per cent in the last 12 months.

“Cutting the wages of shop assistants, cleaners or workers in factories and call centres, will do nothing to increase productive capacity in the economy generally, nor to restrain inflation,” said Mr Lawrence.

The ACTU $26 a week claim would raise the current Federal Minimum Wage from $522.12 to $548.12 a week (up to $14.42 an hour). 

The increase in the minimum award wage for people at the tradesperson’s rate would be 4.2% — equal to other wage movements (Wage Price Index) over the period 2005 to 2008.