If the polls are anything to go by, Australia looks likely to be gearing up for a change in government before the week is up.
For low-paid Australians on the minimum wage, the new government will mean a pay rise.
In a statement on Tuesday morning, the shadow minister for employment and workplace relations Brendan O’Connor announced that Labor would “act immediately to call for a pay rise for Australian workers” if Labor was elected.
In a letter co-authored with O’Connor, opposition leader Bill Shorten Labor advised the Fair Work Commission it would withdraw the current government’s submission to the Annual Wage Review and create a new proposal to hike workers’ wages.
“The Morrison government have failed to argue for Australia's workers, and their submission must be replaced,” Shorten wrote in the letter.
Additionally, a Labor government would legislate for the workplace umpire to give greater consideration to cost of living pressures.
“However, on the first day of Government, we will argue through the current Annual Wage Review for a real increase to award rates,” he said.
“We have made this unprecedented decision on behalf of Australia’s workers who rely on the award minimum rates and do it because this Government has completely failed to advocate for workers in this country.”
Related story: Who actually supports penalty rate cuts for workers?
There are approximately 2.3 million Australian employees on minimum award wages, according to the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).
The current national minimum wage is $18.93 an hour, or $719.20 a week.
Cost of living is rated as the second-highest election issue for voters, according to a recent Ipsos poll.
O’Connor said company profits had gone up 39 per cent but wages have only risen 5 per cent since the last election.
“A record number of Australians are working a second job just to make ends meet.”
Labor’s pledge comes after Shorten said in December that Labor would restore Sunday and public holiday penalty rates within their first 100 days of government.
How much will wages increase?
Michele O’Neil, the president of ACTU, will personally make the case for a six per cent increase to the minimum wage at the Fair Work Commission’s minimum wage panel on Wednesday.
The panel convenes between March to June every year to review and determine the minimum wage that takes effect from July 1.
“We will argue for a 6 per cent increase this year but we know the real solution is to change the rules that determine how the minimum wage is set,” O’Neil said.
The current government has “done nothing to lift their wages for six years”, she added.
“We need to change the government to change the rules for low income workers.”
“We need to restore a living wage.”
No one who works full-time should be living in poverty, O’Neil said.
“Australia should be proud to have been the first nation to establish a living wage, but we need to act now to renew that promise for every worker,” she said.
“The minimum wage should not just be enough to stop you starving, it should be enough to provide for a decent life for all full-time workers.”
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