Australian unions are pushing for a 7 per cent pay rise for 2.6 million Aussies on minimum and award wages.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is urging the Fair Work Commission to lift wages as part of its annual minimum-wage-review decision, which comes into effect on July 1.
A 7 per cent increase would boost the minimum hourly rate to $22.88 and the minimum annual full-time rate to $45,337.28 per year - an increase of $2,966.
ACTU secretary Sally McManus said the increase was “essential” for the one in four workers on minimum and award wages who had suffered real wage cuts over the past two years.
"This increase is vital to help working people keep their heads above water. It is simply about survival for the lowest-paid workers in our country,” McManus said.
“There are real people behind the statistics of Australia’s cost-of-living crisis – the workers we rely on to deliver vital services in early learning, aged care, disability care, fast food, cleaners, security, and retail.
“People are skipping meals, avoiding medical care, and dreading their next bill. Rents have skyrocketed, along with the cost of essentials such as groceries, clothing, fuel, and child care.”
Last year, the Fair Work Commission raised the minimum wage by 5.2 per cent. Inflation peaked at 7.8 per cent for the year to December, meaning workers suffered a real wage cut.
Yesterday’s inflation figures revealed the Consumer Price Index had fallen to 6.8 per cent for the year to February. This was the second month in a row inflation dropped.
Wage-price spiral fears
The Reserve Bank of Australia and governor Philip Lowe have previously warned of the risks of a “wage-price spiral” - where higher prices lead to higher wages, which then causes further price rises.
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Andrew McKellar warned that inflation-matching wage increases would add strain to the economy.
“While Australia appears to have turned a corner on inflation, it still remains stubbornly high. Pushing for unsustainable wage increases while the economic outlook remains precarious jeopardises the viability of small businesses and the jobs they sustain and create,” McKellar said in a statement.
The ACTU has said “there is no wage-price spiral in Australia”.
“Instead, companies have been posting huge profits, driving inflation through excessive price rises,” McManus said.