The Fair Work Commission’s minimum wage panel has raised the minimum wage for award-based workers by $18.70 a week – a rise of 3% over the existing level.
But unions, who argued for a $27 increase this time around, say the rise won’t do enough to close the gap and stop the emergence of a US-style working poor.
In announcing the decision, FWC President Iain Ross acknowledged that the slow growth in the real value of award wages and the decline of the living standards of award-reliant workers relative to other employees was one of the key factors in granting a real increase in the minimum wage.
Indeed, only twenty years ago Australia's minimum wage was the highest in the OECD at nearly 60% of average full time wages. Prior to this decision it was just 43.3% - the lowest proportion on record.
ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver said that the latest rise won’t do enough to reverse the trend.
“Today’s decision means that low paid workers including cleaners, retail and hospitality staff, child care workers, farm labourers, and factory workers will fall even further behind the rest of the workforce,” he said.