Making ends meet is a struggle for working Australians now, but it’s even tougher if you’re Tasmanian.
Tasmanian workers earn on average $200 a week less than their counterparts on the mainland. That equates to a $10,000 year hole in Tasmanian pay packets.
Unions Tasmania and the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has released the Tasmania Needs a Pay Rise report to shine a light on the hardship Tasmanian workers and their families face as the severity of the wage crisis impacts the state.
On the Job caught up with Unions Tasmania Secretary Jessica Munday at Parliament House in Canberra. She was leading a delegation of Tasmanian workers who came to the national capital to tell their stories of hardship and struggle to support the Secure Jobs Better Pay Bill.
“There are workers in Tasmania in a range of occupations and industries that are getting paid less just because they live where they do,” Munday said.
“We’ve got workers say at Boags in Launceston [they’re] getting paid 30 bucks an hour whereas interstate, they would get paid $33 an hour. So, there’s a huge pay differential that add up and that’s why we think we really need the secure jobs better pay bill,” she said.
Union members know the real key to a substantive pay rise for workers is improved bargaining power for working people.
Whilst productivity growth is positive, unemployment historically low, and economic growth is healthy, wages are flatlining, particularly in Tasmania.
The report finds that some large employers in Tasmania are playing their part in wage suppression, exploiting weak employment laws that means they pay their workers significantly less than those on the mainland.
Jessica Munday says that the impact on workers in Tasmania is significant.
We’ve got particularly high rising costs in food, petrol, and housing. Lots of people were probably surprised to know that Hobart is the most unaffordable Metropolitan City to rent in in the country.”
Unions Tasmania Secretary
We’ve got higher living costs in Tasmania and our wages are lower. The fact is, that for the last 12 months, our wages have gone backwards in real terms by five per cent, and over the last decade by a lot more.”
The cost-of-living is a burden across the country, and it’s acute in Tasmania where the rate of inflation was 8.6 per cent for the year to September compared to the national rate of 7.3 per cent.
This has real world consequences for Tasmanian workers and their families, according to Munday.
“It’s heartbreaking when you talk to workers who are making decisions about putting food on the table or petrol in the car. They asking themselves, how do I afford to get to work? I’ve been listening to workers talk about how they don’t think they’ll be able to put their kids through Cubs or Scouts next year Because they just can’t afford it.”
“So, it’s not just workers that are missing out. It’s their families. And in Tassie, people are asking how they pay for rising energy prices. People who maybe weren’t struggling as much a couple of years ago…and it’s really impacting the quality of life they’ve got,” Munday said.
Munday is not fazed by the plans from some big employer groups to run a scare campaign against the Secure Jobs Better Pay Bill.
“Employer lobby groups have opposed just about every pro-worker reform in living memory. This is really about employers protecting self-interest. Their profits are through the roof. Their executives and their CEOs are getting paid very well indeed,” she said.
“If they really cared about the economy rather than lining the pockets of a small few, they would recognize the economic benefits to working people having decent pay rises and a greater say in their workplace.”