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Issue #1826      June 13, 2018

Working poor

The United Voice union has joined the ACTU in welcoming the increase to the minimum wage. The power of unions played an important role in securing this wage rise.

However, the Fair Work Commission acknowledged that the raise will not lift all award-reliant employees out of poverty. Nor did the decision address the gross inequity of penalty rate cuts, which will see hospitality workers lose out on any gain.

The decision highlights the need for a bigger, systemic fix for Australia’s low-paid workers.

In a statement the union points out that the answer is simple: allowing workers to effectively bargain and restoring their voice in a system that has been stacked against them for years.

Overall the decision only demonstrates the need for a stronger system for workers, where we can bargain across our industries for all workers and for more than the minimum that this decision provides.

The next penalty rate cut is to begin on July 1. The 3.5% rise is not a meaningful increment for workers facing an upcoming cut to their penalty rates. The next 10% transition to Sunday penalty rates hits on exactly the same day this minimum wage rise begins.

Hospitality workers stand to lose $16 for a Sunday shift for the next 12 months (which will total $40 from July 2019) – a significant portion of their award rise. The decision today did not acknowledge the penalty rate cut with respect to the workers it impacts. Workers cannot afford and do not deserve the July 1 penalty rate cut.

United Voice national secretary Jo-Anne Schofield said: “It is of great concern that the award wage system that is supposed to be a ‘safety net’ is now the source of wages and conditions for nearly a quarter (23.9%) of the Australian workforce – an alarming rise from the 15% of workers covered by the minimum wage and awards in 2010.

“This, along with the continued collapse of the enterprise bargaining system, is clear evidence of the need for a stronger industry bargaining system for workers.”

Next article – Marx at 200 – Standing the test of time

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