Malcolm Turnbull has sold out on climate change. He has sold out on marriage equality. Now he is selling out working people.
United Voice, one of Australia’s biggest unions, today accused the Government of wilful neglect of the hardship and poverty endured by growing numbers of workers in our country by opposing the union’s application to lift the minimum wage.
The charge comes on the day of the Fair Work Commission’s first hearing into the union’s application to fix the failing minimum wage system.
United Voice, backed by the ACTU, has taken the unprecedented step of asking the Commission to set a standard for the minimum wage by pegging it to median wage. The target nominated by the union is for the minimum wage to be 60% of the median wage by 2020.
The gap between the haves and have-nots is widening. In 1997 the minimum wage was 62% of median wage. Today it is just 53%.
The minimum wage is no longer doing the job it was set up to do: ensure low paid workers can earn enough to live with security and dignity.
Workers make up one third of Australians living in poverty. Improving this growing inequality should be a priority of the Government. Instead in Parliament last week the Government’s priorities were:
- Trading away Australia’s widely respected and popular gun safety laws for Senate votes;
- Bringing in $4 an hour internships;
- Making life harder for young people by imposing a waiting time before they can receive income support;
- Hurting pensioners by changing rules for claiming the pension;
- Reducing protections for working people by bringing back the ABCC; and
- Funding an expensive and divisive plebiscite on marriage equality.
Quotes attributable to Jo-anne Schofield, United Voice, National Secretary:
“The Government is prepared to risk community safety to weaken the rights of workers. This is a Government that has not once stood in the Fair Work Commission to support workers over the rights of bosses.”
“United Voice urges the Government to put the interests of working people first and to support the lifting of the minimum wage.”
“The decline in the value of the minimum wage over recent decades has pushed too many workers into poverty.”
“The approach of the Government to the Fair Work Commission is weak and inconsistent: on one hand it is leaving penalty rates to the Commission; on the other it is opposing lifting the standards of the lowest paid.”
“Many United Voice members are cleaners, security guards, early childhood educators, hospitality workers, and aged and home care workers – jobs which are crucial to our community and where the level of the minimum wage is critical to a decent life.”
“Inequality is on the rise in Australia. Yet the persistent focus of the Turnbull Government is to make life more difficult for Australians.”
Quotes attributable to Dave Oliver, ACTU Secretary:
“Unless a medium term target is set, Australia’s lowest paid workers are at risk of becoming a US-style underclass of working poor who are trapped below the poverty line.”
“The national minimum wage is now just 53% median earnings and the ACTU and United Voice believe a medium term target would address the widening inequality that is the reality for many working people.”
The minimum wage has actually fallen below the relative poverty line of 60% of median earnings since 1999, and is now well below; this is unconscionable.”
“The ACTU fights for a higher minimum wage, year in, year out, and it would be a significant boost for low income workers to see the Federal Government get on board to make sure the gap does not widen further.”
“In the past fortnight we have seen two compelling pieces of evidence to support the need for a higher minimum wage: In his maiden speech the Reserve Bank of Australia governor Philip Lowe said slow wage growth was a major element of low inflation, while The Poverty in Australia 2016 report revealed that three million Australians, including 17.4% of all children, live in poverty.”
“It is time to act and Australian Unions are proud to be on the right side of the battle for change.”
United Voice - 0425 242 691
ACTU - 0418 793 885 or 03 9664 7315