The response by Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott to yesterday’s Living Wage rise of $13 for low-paid workers shows that the Minister is out of touch with the needs of people who are struggling to survive on the minimum wage.

The Australian Industrial Relations Commission granted a $13, or 3.25 per cent increase, to workers on the federal minimum wage of $400. Workers earning $490-$590 a week will receive $15; those earning above $590 will receive $17. The $13 increase means a pay rise of only $9.10 after tax. The ACTU argued for a $28 rise.

“Mr Abbott’s response that yesterday’s decision was ‘good, especially for low-paid workers’ shows that he has no idea how much working people are hurting,” said ACTU President Sharan Burrow.

“Does Mr Abbott ever listen to talkback radio? Yesterday, people were phoning in to radio stations all around Australia to say $9 after tax does not make up for GST rises and petrol price hikes.”

Ms Burrow described as hypocritical Mr Abbott’s claim that the Government had given low-paid workers wage rises of 9% in real terms since it was elected.

“Low-paid people get wage rises because the ACTU applies to the industrial commission. And every year, this mean-spirited Government argues against the ACTU’s Living Wage claim. To add insult, the Government then claims credit for the wage rise.

“Mr Abbott is fudging these figures by hiding the impact of the GST – that knocks down his claimed increase from nine per cent to about six per cent.

“Voters are very aware that Mr Abbott, Prime Minister Howard and their colleagues are about to collect a pay rise of about $200 a week. The yawning gap between rich and poor in this country has stretched a lot more this week.”

Ms Burrow said the ACTU’s Living Wage claim of $28 would have added less than 0.7% to the total wages bill.