3 per cent minimum wage rise a win for workers

The Fair Work Commission announced today a 3 per cent increase in the minimum wage, meaning workers will have an extra $21.60 a week to spend––or save.

The commission’s annual review decision increases the minimum wage to $740.80 a week or $19.49 an hour and will come into effect on July 1.

FWC president Iain Ross delivered the announcement at 11am AEST which is seen as a win for workers who rely on the minimum wage to make a living.

The Australian Council for Trade Unions said even though it’s a step in the right direction, it still fell short of re-establishing the living wage and ensuring no worker lives below the poverty line.

Justice Ross said in his announcement that while living standards for the lowest paid workers had improved, some continue to experience “significant disadvantage”.

The ACTU originally asked for a 6 per cent wage increase or $43 a week but the new increase will still see 2.2 million Australians receiving a pay rise.

The ACTU Assistant Secretary Liam O’Brien said this was a welcome pay rise for low paid workers, considering the penalty rate cuts people will face in the next few weeks.

“We have a long way to go to ensure that the minimum wage is enough for workers to live on and support their families,” Mr O’Brien said.

The Australian Industry Group’s Head of Communications and Government Affairs Tony Melville said a 2 per cent increase or $14.40 extra would have been more ideal.

“[This increase] is a median rate, we would have preferred to see a two in front but it’s still in a much better position than what the ACTU asked for,” he said.

The Australian Industry Group said the Australian economy was slowing and looked to remain this way until the end of the year.

Mr Melville said the Fair Work Commission and the Australian Industry Group would argue ACTU’s 6 per cent increase would basically put a stop to employment in Australia.

“This would run a significant risk of unemployment and would have adverse effects on opportunities for low-skilled and young workers,” he said.

They believe now is not the right time in the economic environment to make risky movements in minimum changes as businesses are already struggling with high costs.

“Some small businesses will certainly struggle to afford the wage increase but there’s actually not a large number of people on the minimum wage,” Mr Melville said.

He claimed compared to other countries around the world, Australia was lucky with our minimum wage.

“We’ve got a very high minimum wage in Australia, it’s the second highest in the world on an hourly basis. We are behind Luxembourg but equal to France,” Mr Melville said.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a generous minimum wage, but certainly compared to around the world, we are well in front of the pack.”

According to the ACTU, overall Australian wage growth has been at an all time low for more than six years.

“No one in Australia should be living in poverty while working full time, but we know that thousands of people are facing this reality,” ACTU Assistant Secretary Liam O’Brien said.

We asked young people in Bentley what they think of the new minimum wage. Video: Kellie Balaam.

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