Union attacks wage delay proposition

·2-min read

Unions have criticised employer groups for pushing to delay a pay rise as inflationary pressures outstrip wages growth.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry says any rise in the minimum wage should be delayed for the accommodation and food services sectors, tourism-related transport, and arts and events due to the slower rate of business recovery and price hikes increasing the cost of business.

The commencement of wage increases for specific awards should be delayed by a minimum of four months, until at least November 1, the ACCI argues.

The ACCI is also pushing for an increase of up to three per cent in the minimum wage determined by the independent Fair Work Commission, remaining behind headline inflation of 5.1 per cent.

"This gets the balance right, taking into account the full range of risks and uncertainties facing the Australian economy, workers and businesses," the chamber said in its FWC submission.

The National Retail Association also argues that any wage rise should be deferred until November 1 due to "exceptional circumstances" including a labour shortage crisis.

"The NRA submits that the positive economic indications from the national accounts for the March quarter 2022 should be treated with caution since they do not reflect the expected impacts of recent interest rates rises," it told the FWC.

The Australian Industry Group has proposed a wage rise of 2.5 per cent due to the economic conditions facing businesses.

ACTU secretary Sally McManus says pay freezes would hurt businesses and the broader economy by reducing spending and forcing low paid workers to cut back on everyday essential items.

"Working people cannot be left behind in the recovery from the pandemic. The annual wage review is the first step in ensuring that we share the recovery from this crisis across the economy," she said.

"The biggest risk to business is actually consumer spending which ironically they are seeking to damage through their proposed wage cuts."

Ms McManus also criticised businesses for insinuating pay rises would make it harder to hire staff.

"Several of the employer groups are arguing that increasing wages will make it harder for them to attract staff. We would encourage them to test that theory," she said.

"We currently have a cost of living crisis, with productivity high and profits at record levels, low unemployment and the lowest labour share of GDP on record.

"Anyone not currently advocating for wage growth is ignoring the problem."

The federal government has proposed a wage rise of at least 5.1 per cent in its submission to ensure the real wages of low paid workers do not go backwards.

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