Labor logs Fair Work call for higher wages

Burke said the government had not limited its recommendation just to those on the minimum wage, but had instead used the term “low-paid” Australians, which the commission defines as people on two-thirds of the average adult full-time hourly wage.

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“We referred to low-paid workers. Who are these people? They are largely the heroes of the pandemic. They are the people that both sides of politics have made great speeches about after the pandemic, but only one side of politics, the Labor government now, was willing to fight for it,” he said.

“So we’re talking about people with prices that are also close to the minimum wage. You think that for example [with] shop assistants, with cleaners, with many people in the care economy. So low-paid workers are the reference out there.

“The government doesn’t want anyone to back down, but this is most acute for low-income people. They are the people most affected by the cost of living crisis; they are also the people with the least capacity to have assets or savings to take advantage of.”

Professor Roger Wilkins of Melbourne University’s Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, said this is equivalent to about 1.3 million Australians.

dr. Angela Jackson, chief economist at Impact Economics, gave a slightly higher estimate of about 1.5 million people, saying those with two-thirds of the median income were earning about $24 an hour.

Burke used the submission to distinguish Labor from the previous administration, saying “the government policy of low wages as an intentional design feature ended today”.

The entry also noted a headline in the entry submitted this year by the then-coalition government — titled: The importance of low paid work – “does not reflect the priorities of this government”.

Andrew McKellar, chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said a prohibitive wage increase would risk further hurting small businesses, “and the millions of jobs they sustain and create.”

“Imposing unaffordable wage increases on small businesses will jeopardize, not create, jobs,” he said.

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Referring to its effort to close the gender pay gap, the government said in the submission that low-paid workers were “more likely to be women, to be incidentally employed and under the age of 30”.

ACTU Secretary Sally McManus said it was a “huge shift to have a government that accepts there is a problem with wage growth in this country and is willing to do something about it.”

“Workers’ share of national income is currently at a record low, while productivity is high and profits are at record highs. We urgently need wage increases for working people and this is a great first step,” she said.

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