National Minimum Wage ‘manifestly inadequate’: ACCER

07/03/2012

The Australian Catholic Council for Employment Relations (ACCER) has called on Fair Work Australia to increase the national minimum wage (NMW), claiming that current standards amount to ‘poverty wages’ for low income working families.

The announcement was made at the launch of the organisation’s Minimum Wage Submission on Tuesday 6 March, ahead of Fair Work Australia’s Annual Wage Review for 2012.

ACCER’s submission focuses on the needs of the low paid alongside relative living standards, claiming that the current NMW does not allow for all Australians to achieve a decent standard of living. It states that the setting of safety net wages over the past decade has failed low paid workers and their families, leading to social exclusion, highlighting in particular the impact that wage policies have on Australian families.

ACCER’s Minimum Wage Submission proposes:

 

Award Wages:

 

  • A percentage increase to reflect Consumer Price Index increases over the past year, which are expected to be about 2.0% by the time of the wage hearing.
  • A further increase of 1.0% on account of productivity over recent years, with further productivity-based increases to be considered in subsequent wage cases.
  • The percentage increases be converted to a flat money amount for wage rates below the trades-qualified rate.  At a combined 3.0% increase, this would amount to $20.60 per week for low paid workers.

 

National Minimum Wage:

 

  • That the current NMW of $589.30 per week be raised over time, to match the base cleaner’s classification rate of pay, currently $629.50.
  • That this target rate be adopted pending the completion of a research program designed to identify the needs of workers and their families.
  • To adjust the NMW in 2012 in a similar way to award wages and that it be adjusted by a further amount of $10.00 per week.
  • That the cost of this first step towards a decent National Minimum Wage would be insignificant.

Tuesday’s launch event was attended by keynote speaker John Buchanan, Professor and Director, Sydney University Business School, who supports ACCER’s contention that quantifying the needs of low paid workers and their families is a crucial research activity in the setting of fair minimum wages.

Brian Lawrence, Chairman of the Australian Catholic Council for Employment Relations said:

"Fair Work Australia has a statutory obligation to inquire into the needs of the low paid in the setting of fair minimum wages. ACCER has for years maintained that better wages and conditions of employment are absolutely essential if we are to deal with the unacceptable degree of family and social dysfunction that we now have in Australia. We are looking for strong support from the Commonwealth Government because without better wages its policies to promote the social inclusion of low paid working families will mean nothing."

Anthony Farley, Executive Director of the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations (CCER), the state body representing NSW/ACT employers, added:

"Catholic Social Teaching says that all workers have the right to wages that will support their families at a decent standard of living. The current minimum wage does not provide this, which is simply unacceptable. This is a growing social problem that won’t go away. A slash and burn approach to the low paid is nothing more than a race to the bottom."

The Catholic Church is one of the biggest employers in Australia, with more than 150,000 employees across health, aged care, education, welfare and administration.

ACCER is a council of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. CCER represents the interests of Catholic employers in NSW and the ACT through advocacy, support and training in workplace relations matters.


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