Unions seek 4% rise for low-paid workers
Mark Davis, Political Correspondent, smh
February 27, 2008
UNIONS NSW has called on the Federal Government to support pay rises of 4 per cent for the country's lowest-paid workers despite inflationary pressures in the economy.
The secretary of the peak union body, John Robertson, said yesterday that a looming wages review by the Fair Pay Commission would give the Rudd Government an opportunity to meet its election pledge to look after working families.
But the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry will ask the commission to award a minimum wage rise below the inflation rate this year.
The Fair Pay Commission is calling for submissions for its annual review of the minimum wage rates which set the pay levels of an estimated 1.2 million workers.
The Government has called for wage restraint to contain inflationary pressures and has decided that federal MPs will not have their pay increased at all this year to set an example.
But it has not announced its approach to the Fair Pay Commission review.
Mr Robertson said Unions NSW had lodged a claim with the NSW Industrial Relations Commission earlier this month for a $24 a week increase in state minimum wage rates.
He said the Fair Pay Commission should deliver a similar rise of 4 per cent for workers regulated by the federal minimum wage system. "The low-paid should not be the ones caught in the middle of dealing with inflation," Mr Robertson said. "They are already struggling, they need to be looked after and, frankly, that is what a Rudd Labor government was elected to do.
"This is a Government elected saying it was going to look after the interests of working families and people who rely on minimum wages are the most vulnerable working families in our community."
The acting chief executive of Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Peter Anderson, said the employer group would propose a wage rise for the low-paid slightly lower than inflation to help avoid a wage-price spiral.
Mr Anderson said the chamber would argue such a wage rise combined with the Government's planned tax cuts would still ensure low-paid workers had a real increase in after-tax income.