Update: 8 May 2022
The Australian union movement revised its Annual Wage Review claim from 5% to 5.5% to ensure that the quarter of the workforce who rely on pay increases provided by the Review do not go backwards in the midst of the Morrison Government’s accelerating cost of living crisis.
A pay rise of 5.5% for the one in four workers who rely on the outcome of Annual Wage Review for wage growth aims to ensure that they do not go backwards in real terms.
The latest Missing in Action report from the ACTU shows us what we have already been experiencing first-hand: we are in a real wages crisis.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says it’s not his job to take action on wages, but he has the power to act and ensure workers can get wage rises and enjoy a decent standard of living.
If he chose to, we could all enjoy a decent wage increase. Here are the eight ways he could make that happen.
1. Close legal loopholes to stop big business forcing workers into insecure work
Insecure work has become even further entrenched as the norm in the Australian workforce thanks to the Morrison Government.
About one in three workers are in a form of insecure work – working as causals, on rolling fixed-term contracts, or engaged through labour hire.
Many of the workers that kept this country afloat during the pandemic are in these forms of unreliable work, facing unpredictable work hours and little confidence about keeping their job.
Not knowing if you’ll have a shift or even a job tomorrow makes it hard to bargain for better wages and the Government knows this.
Morrison has only made this instability worse by allowing employers to classify any job as casual and failing to provide JobKeeper to key groups of workers.
Instead of empty thank yous, the Morrison Government should close the loopholes in the law that let employers turn permanent jobs into insecure ones.
2. Support a meaningful increase in minimum and Award wages
There are 2.3 million Australians who are paid the minimum wage or an Award wage. Almost two-thirds of these workers are women.
The current minimum wage sits at just $20.33 per hour or $772.60 per week if you are working full-time.
Even though minimum wage and Award wage workers received a 2.5% pay rise last year, this was completely eaten up by increased inflation. So in real terms, wages went backwards by more than $800 for the average worker.
As the cost of everything rises, our wages need to rise as well. If wages increases are less than the increase in cost of living, it means that you’ve had a pay cut.
Previously the Morrison Government has refused to support meaningful increases to minimum and Award wages. They’ve even repeated discredited arguments that some workers deserve to be low paid.
A minimum wage should serve as a living wage, allowing workers to enjoy decent leaving standards.
Australian Unions are calling for minimum wage workers to receive a 5% pay rise, and unions are also calling for a 25 percent pay increase for aged care workers.
Instead of going missing when he is needed most, Morrison can turn up and support the claims.
3. Better bargaining and wages for Commonwealth public sector workers
The Morrison Government has let down it’s own workforce by introducing one of the largest pay caps in the country.
The Coalition Government introduced a 1.5% pay cap in 2014, changing it to 2% in 2015.
Even the Reserve Bank has recognised that this Government’s wages policy will hold back economic recovery across the board. This is bad for workers in the APS, and bad for workers everywhere.
Morrison needs to remove caps on APS wages and let Commonwealth public sector workers effectively bargain for fair wages.
4. Scrap the plan to let employers cut employee pay and conditions under Enterprise Agreements
The collapse of collective bargaining has had a dramatic impact on overall wages growth.
Figures from The Australia Institute’s Centre for Future work shows that when more workers can collectively bargain for better wages, the national wage growth also strengthens. When workers have higher wages, it helps stimulate economic growth.
But Morrison has shown himself to be more interested in cosying up to the big business lobby rather than support workers through law reforms weakening employees’ rights.
The Government needs to close the legal loopholes that let employers tear them up, stripping workers’ pay, rights, and conditions.
5. Pass laws that remove the barriers that are preventing women from achieving equal pay
On average, a women worker in Australia will earn about $483 less than a man this week.
The further casualisation of work and structural barriers to women’s participation in the workforce exacerbate the gender wage gap.
The Morrison Government has continued to undervalue industries where women are the majority of the workforce such as early childhood education and care.
6. Support Aged Care workers in their case for a $5 an hour work value pay rise
Aged care is another industry made up of mostly women that Morrison has left behind.
Underpaid, overworked and often in insecure work, aged care union members are fighting for a $5 pay rise.
Thus far the Morrison Government has made no commitment to properly fund aged care workers. It’s about time he supported the pay rise claim.
7. Crack down on wage theft with stronger laws
By failing to tackle wage theft, Morrison has allowed its spread so that it has become a business model for many dodgy bosses.
While states such as Victoria have criminalised wage theft, the Morrison Government hasn’t even committed to the 19 recommendations proposed by a Senate inquiry into wage theft.
Many workers need to work multiple jobs just to make ends meet. The last thing struggling workers need is to be robbed by their boss.
Morrison must treat wage theft seriously by passing laws to let a worker quickly and easily chase up stolen wages and super.
8. Start publicly backing fair pay rises to let all workers receive their fair share of labour productivity growth
Since the pandemic hit, corporate profits have averaged over 28% of total GDP: by far the highest in Australian history, and almost twice the profit share recorded in the 1970s.
But hidden behind that lucrative number are the stagnant wages and high prices undermining the living standards of workers.
Morrison needs to stop denying workers a fair share of our national wealth ad start backing fair pay rises.
Supporting our 5% increase claim in the Annual Wage Review would be a great way for him to start showing up for workers.