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Revealed: Minimum-wage workers’ upcoming pay rise

Pedestrians walk down a busy city street in Brisbane. A person puts a wad of $100 into a checkered purse. Images: Getty
Australia's 2.2 million minimum wage workers have received a pay increase. Images: Getty

The Fair Work Commission has announced its annual minimum wage decision, with the current weekly minimum weekly wage of $719.20 to increase by 3 per cent to $740.80.

This is an increase of $21.60 a week, or $1,092 a year, and brings the minimum hourly wage to $19.49 an hour.

It comes after last year’s decision to increase the minimum wage by 3.5 per cent, or $24.30 a week.

The decision came down to a lower GDP, despite an agreement that the Australian economy was performing “moderately well”.

Around 2.2 million minimum-wage workers will be affected by the decision, with the new minimum wage to come into effect on 1 July 2019.

“We have decided to award a lower increase this year than that awarded last year having regard to the changes in the economic environment (in particular the recent fall in GDP growth and the drop in inflation) and the tax-transfer changes which ... have provided a benefit to low-paid households,” commission president Justice Iain Ross said.

Unions respond

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) described the decision as welcome news.

“This is a welcome pay rise for millions of low paid workers, especially in the face of further penalty rate cuts in a few weeks,” ACTU assistant secretary Liam O’Brien said.

“We have a long way to go to ensure that the minimum wage is enough for workers to live on and support their families.

“No one in Australia should be living in poverty while working full time, but we know that thousands of people are facing this reality.”

The ACTU previously submitted to the Fair Work Commission that the minimum wage should be increased by 6 per cent, or $43 a week, warning that anything less would see Australia’s lowest-paid workers remain within the OECD definition of relative poverty.

However, the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union disagrees, describing the increase as “simply not enough”.

“A 3.5 per cent wage increase is simply not enough. Yet again the Fair Work Commission has got this wrong,” the union said on Twitter.

“Add the cuts to penalty rates and many Australians will struggle to keep up with the cost of living. Working people deserve better.”

But the Australian Industry group argued the opposite, warning that the last two wage increases had been out of step with overall economic settings and that “now is not the time for risky movements”.

This group called for a wage increase of 2 per cent, or a weekly increase of $14.40.

Is it enough?

Australians are split on the wage rise.

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