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‘It simply isn’t fair’: Labor pushes back against $18.93 per hour minimum wage

Image: AAP 

The Australian Labor Party is preparing to enshrine the importance of being paid a “living wage” in law should they be elected at the upcoming federal election.

Labor leader Bill Shorten foreshadowed the plan on Tuesday when he said “everything in Australia has gone up except for people’s wages”, and noted that governments can make submissions to the Fair Work Commission to lift wages.

However, he added that another tool could be to change the legislation around who can set the minimum wage, adding that the centre-left party will have more to say on the matter “in coming weeks”.

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“It simply isn’t fair, nor sustainable for economic confidence in this country, that an adult could work full time and be earning $18.93 an hour at the minimum wage before tax,” he said at a press conference in Canberra.

“We trust the Fair Work Commission. But periodically, they do get it wrong.”

He said the Labor party wants to “help” the Fair Work Commission with the guidelines used to set the minimum wage, and wants to encourage the Commission to take in more factors.

Continuing, he said the minimum wage should be a living wage.

Bleak job market for Australians

His comments are set against a backdrop of stagnating wage growth and an increasingly agitated worker base.

Just this week, workers at Telstra and Chemist Warehouse walked off the job to protest poor wage conditions.

And Australian unions are also leaning on the government to boost wages.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has called on the Fair Work Commission to boost the minimum wage by 6 per cent, or $43 a week.

That would see the minimum wage increase to $762.20 a week from $719.20, and would equate to a $2,200 pay rise over the year.

“No full-time worker should live in poverty,” ACTU chief secretary Sally McManus told ABC Radio National on Wednesday.

“If you work 38 hours a week you should earn a living wage, one you can survive on not one that pushes you into poverty.”

She said a 10.7 per cent increase to the minimum wage over two years would lift people out of property.

But, she added, the Fair Work Commission is the body that should ultimately decide what the minimum wage is.

However Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott said the key to lifting wages is to boost productivity.

“We can start by maintaining and making stronger the enterprise bargaining system, that sees workers and employers working together to boost productivity in return for changes to wages and conditions,” Westacott said.

– With AAP.

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