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2017-06-30

Slow low

RBA wants workers to earn more

The head of Australia’s Reserve Bank (RBA), Phillip Lowe, thinks it would be a good thing if Australia’s workers earned more – and unions agree. 

It’s unusual, to say the least, for a senior government officer to be calling for wage rises when what we are used to hearing is calls for wage restraint. But then we are in an unusual situation, with both wage growth and workers’ share of national wealth at all-time lows. 

Business is doing well, with profits up. But what’s good for individual businesses is not necessarily good for the economy as a whole. It won’t grow if demand stagnates because no-one has money to spend. 

So Lowe wants workers to be “re-energised” and demand bigger wage rises. 

Actually, though, they are demanding them right now – it’s just that employers aren’t agreeing to give them. Funny that! 

Lowe seems unaware that the whole aim of the changes we have seen to workplace laws in the last 10 years (if not longer) has been to weaken workers’ bargaining power by limiting opportunities for industrial action and undermining the ability of unions to advance their members’ interests. 

It’s effective collective action –or the prospect of it – that drives wage growth across the economy, not individual workers’ going cap in hand to the boss. 

That’s why unions are saying that changes in workplace laws are needed if we are to have wage justice in Australia – and give the economy a boost at the same time. 

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