Today’s decision by Fair Work Australia to grant a 3.4% increase to the one in six workers who are dependent on awards will allow Australia’s lowest paid workers to keep pace with the cost of living, but not with the rest of the workforce.

The Annual Wage Review decision will lift the National Minimum Wage by $19.40 a week to $589.30 or $15.51 an hour from 1 July, and means that in real terms, the minimum wage has finally recovered from WorkChoices.

The benchmark tradespersons (C10) rate will increase by $22.60 to $686.20 or $18.06 an hour.

“Today’s decision will help meet the needs of award wage earners and we are pleased it is above inflation, but the reality is it will not be enough to bridge the gap between the low paid and the rest of the workforce,” said ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence

The panel’s decision to award a flat 3.4% increase to the 1.4 million workers on award wages translates as $19.40 for the lowest income earners on the National Minimum Wage.

“That will benefit about 100,000 Australian workers, who take home the lowest pay in our community, while the majority of the remaining 1.3 million workers on award wages will receive about $22 a week,” Mr Lawrence said.

“We are pleased that the panel’s decision nullifies the claims being put out by big business, who would have the community believe that the state of the economy is so parlous we can’t afford to pay our lowest paid a decent wage.

“Today’s decision is twice what employers were seeking, which would have been a real wage cut to the most vulnerable workers.

“The panel, in their ruling, agreed with what the ACTU has been saying – that the overall outlook for the economy is positive and that labour productivity is growing, underlying inflation is acceptable, unemployment is on the decrease and labour force participation is high.

“These facts should silence the noisy myths being peddled by self-interest business groups.

“The panel also agreed with the unions that while the natural disasters during summer had affected some sectors in the economy, most businesses expected to recover and that there were government schemes in place to support those who needed it.

“Relative to the rest of the developed world, Australia is doing very well – and it is only fair that our lowest paid can share in our prosperity.”