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Australia – Union slams minimum wage increase

03 June 2013

Unions have slammed today’s decision by the Fair Work Commission to raise the minimum wage for 1.5 million low-paid workers by AUD 15.80 a week as a “very poor outcome”. The minimum wage will increase to AUD 622.20 per week.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) said that low-paid workers will fall behind further with the Commission missing an opportunity to close the wage gap. The union had sought an increase of AUD 30 a week for the lowest paid. After tax, those on the minimum wage will earn AUD 1.80 more a day, it said.

“This decision is a kick in the guts for 1.5 million low-paid workers and their families that will only further widen the gap between the low-paid and average earnings,” said ACTU Secretary, Dave Oliver.

“We are stunned that today the Commission has acknowledged that wage inequality is rising in Australia but it has done absolutely nothing about it. In fact, after this decision, it will only get worse. As a result of this decision, the national minimum wage will continue falling as a percentage of average weekly earnings, from 50% in 2000, to 43.4% last year, and now to 42.7%.”

He said Australia’s economy was in good shape, and a decent minimum wage could help prevent the emergence of a US-style working poor. “Minimum wage workers have little bargaining power, and the annual wage case is often their only chance for a pay rise,” Mr Oliver said.

Meanwhile the government welcomed the “modest” pay rise, saying the Commission's decision was “well-balanced and moderate”.

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