A decision by the Federal Government’s pay setting body late yesterday (Thurs 16 Aug.) to scrap guaranteed minimum wages for property salespeople and allow commission-only payments is a dangerous precedent that could spell the beginning of the end for minimum award wages in Australia says the ACTU.

This is a major change especially for property sales workers in Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania given that previous State laws protected these workers from receiving commission payments that were less than the legal minimum wage in these jurisdictions.

The ACTU is concerned that this latest decision by the Fair Pay Commission is another step on the path of Australia becoming like the United States where workers could be forced to survive on sales commissions and tips alone & are not protected by decent minimum wages.

The pay of thousands of other Australian workers including workers in cafes and restaurants, clothing workers, meat workers, fruit pickers and other agricultural workers could be threatened if this Govt decision flows on to other industries.

Commenting on this alarming new decision by the Australian Fair Pay Commission, ACTU President Sharan Burrow said today:

“This decision shows there is no doubt that if the Coalition wins the next election it will go further in cutting workers’ entitlements and scrapping award wages.

“It is a major issue of principle. Workers’ should be guaranteed a minimum wage and should not have to rely just on sales commissions, tips from customers, or piece rates for the products they make.

“How can families cover their rent or home loan and afford to pay the bills if they are not guaranteed a minimum wage?

“Commission and piece rate-only payments put all the risks of the business onto employees.

“There are many variables outside the control of an individual sales person or worker that would seriously affect his or her capacity to earn a decent income if there is no guaranteed minimum wage.

“For example, the collapse of the sub-prime housing loan market in the US shows the property market is very volatile and it is unwise for the Pay Commission to allow commission-only payments to be based on a five-year sales history for agents. This is far too long given the volatility in this industry.

“This decision could mean the pay for some property salespeople falling below the current minimum award wage of just $13.74 an hour across Australia ($14.65 in NSW),” said Ms Burrow.

Australian Fair Pay Commission decision 6/2007:
”The Commission has decided to provide commission-only remuneration arrangements for real estate employees undertaking sales transactions involving an agency relationship based on a formula of 35 per cent of the employer’s net commission.” (p.19, 16 August 2007)