Introduction and Overview

1.  The ACTU is the peak body for Australian unions and is the only national union confederation in Australia. For more than 90 years, the ACTU has played the leading role in advocating for the rights and conditions of working people and their families.

2.  The ACTU is made up of 39 affiliated unions and trades and labour councils, and we represent almost 2 million working people across all industries. Our peak governing body is our triennial Congress, which comprises union representatives from “shop floor” delegates to national officials. More than 1,000 delegates attended our 2018 Congress, which democratically adopted the following position:

“Congress affirms the need for a national living wage. A living wage should reduce poverty and inequality, improve the absolute and relative living standards for award dependent workers and reduce the gap between award and agreement rates of pay.

Congress affirms that the National Minimum Wage (NMW) ought to be set at a level that provides a living wage. Congress commits to the pursuit of a NMW which is a living wage at 60% of the full-time median wage as the means of achieving this objective, with the Commission hearing applications to have NWM wage movements reflected in awards.

Congress believes that the NMW should move annually. There should be a return to an arbitrated national wage case heard by the Commission. The NMW should flow on to all workers through the award system.

Congress also recognises that the living standards of low paid workers are particularly reliant on the social wage, which includes tax and social security policy and the provision of public services including health, education, housing and transport. Congress will campaign for social wage improvements to lift the living standards of low income households, as a complement to – but not substitution for – real increases in Award rates and a minimum wage that is a living wage.”

3.  We recognise that the Panel has rejected the notion that it can adopt a position such as that adopted by our Congress, either as a target or as an immediate outcome in Annual Wage Review.   This is a consequence of the law that binds how the Panel must make its decisions, and we make no claim that Panel is in any position to change its approach.   We are similarly bound, and proudly so, by our undertaking to all those we represent to pursue the objectives democratically and (for the moment) freely determined by them during our Congress

4.  Reconciling our position with the approach the Panel is required to take leads us to seek an increase to the minimum wage and modern award minimum wages which is compatible with the statutory criteria but which also marks progress toward the objectives determined by the working people we represent.