The proposal by the Howard Government and peak employer group ACCI for an increase of only $10 a week in the minimum wage represents a pay cut in real terms that would push down the living standards of low paid workers and their families.

ACTU Secretary Greg Combet said:

“The Howard Government has joined with peak employer group ACCI to propose what is effectively a wages cut for Australia’s lowest paid workers.”

“At $10 a week, the proposal is less than inflation and less than the Government supported last year. After tax, low paid workers would only receive an extra $7 a week.”

“On their own admission, the proposal fails to match rising prices and the general increase in the cost of living.”

“Working families need a pay rise so they can stay afloat financially. The Government’s proposal would see the living standard of low paid workers and their families go backwards.”

“It is a miserly response to the ACTU’s claim for a $26.60 a week increase in the minimum wage that defies logic.”

“The economy is strong (GDP rose 1.2% in Sept. quarter), inflation is low (2.4%), job growth is good and unemployment is close to the lowest it has been in 22 years (5.7%) – if ever there was a time to give Australia’s lowest paid workers a wage rise now is it.”

“The proposal lacks credibility given ABS data that shows profits in industries reliant on award workers have risen around ten times faster than wages in recent years.”

“The research shows that wages have only increased 8.8% in the period of the Howard Government (1996 – 2003) but profits in the retail industry have doubled.”

“Low paid workers in the hospitality and retail industries have directly contributed to big increases in business profits and yet they have received little reward themselves.”

“These award dependent industries, as well as the health and community services sector, have also experienced strong gains in productivity, output and employment.”

“The Government and ACCI are also on very shaky ground in arguing that a rise in the minimum wage above their miserly proposal of $10 a week would cost jobs.”

“Evidence presented by the ACTU and accepted by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission shows that recent rises in minimum wages have had no adverse impact on the economic performance and jobs growth of award-dependent industries.”

“The ACTU hoped that in the lead up to a federal election, the Howard Government and its tight-fisted friends at the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry might have supported a more realistic wage increase for Australia’s lowest paid workers and their families.”