A pay freeze for workers reliant on minimum award wages is unfair and discriminatory, say unions.

The decision yesterday to freeze award minimum wages will leave more than 1.3 million Australians worse off in real terms.

The average award worker will lose about $16 a week until the next wage decision is due in July 2010.

ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said:

“It is unfair for low paid workers to be discriminated against in this way.

“They should not have to bear the burden of the economic downturn when people on higher incomes such as executives are the ones who can afford to tighten their belts.

“Executives and other people on high incomes will not be affected by the pay commission’s decision, only workers that are reliant on award minimum wages and have little bargaining power.

“The pay freeze will counter the effect of the Federal Government’s $900 a week stimulus payment for more than 13% of the workforce and will undermine consumer demand.

“Any green shoots of economic recovery will be nipped in the bud by this unfair and unwise decision.

“Less money in workers’ pockets will mean shops and businesses will suffer a decline in sales and this could harm the economy.

“It’s a free kick for those employers who won’t have to give their staff a pay rise this year but it comes at the expense of the living standards of working families,” said Mr Lawrence.