07/07/2009 - 11:47

Minimum wage unchanged

07/07/2009 - 11:47

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Western Australia's peak industry lobby group has welcomed the decision to hold the nation's minimum wage at its current level by Fair Pay Commission which handed down its decision today.

Western Australia's peak industry lobby group has welcomed the decision to hold the nation's minimum wage at its current level by Fair Pay Commission which handed down its decision today.

Australia has about 1.3 million low-paid workers at or around the minimum wage of $543.78 a week.

"Today's decision by the Australian Fair Pay Commission to maintain minimum wages at current levels will not only assist WA business and industry ride out the worst of the current global economic uncertainty, but importantly, help protect local jobs," said WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry executive director, economic policy, John Nicolaou.

Fair Pay Commission chairman Ian Harper agreed with this sentiment, but admitted the decision had been a very difficult one.

"These are uncertain times for the economy and for the Australian labour market, and in the commission's view caution is warranted at this time in the setting of minimum wages," Professor Harper said in a statement.

"This is not the time to risk the jobs of low-paid Australians by increasing minimum wages."

The ACTU had argued for a $21 per week rise, which would have lifted the minimum wage to $564.78 a week, while the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry opposed any wage increase.

About 1.3 million Australians, such as cleaners, childcare workers and those in hospitality, work under minimum wage conditions.

Last year low paid workers across Australia received a $21.66 per week pay rise, taking the minimum wage to $543.78 a week.

Prof Harper said this year's decision was set against a different economic backdrop.

He said wage growth was slowing and job opportunities were diminishing.

Prof Harper said the decision focused on encouraging employers to keep Australia's lowest-paid workers in jobs.

"Our concern is that a blanket increase in minimum wages, while affordable to some businesses, may not be sustainable for all businesses and will therefore result in lower employment and even in some business closures," he said.

Prof Harper said the government's recent stimulus packages had increased the disposable incomes of most households.

"Australia's lowest-income households have benefited significantly from these policy measures."

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry acting chief executive Greg Evans said the commission's decision recognised the most important thing in the current economic climate was to protect jobs.

"Employees are much more concerned at this time on job security and retaining jobs rather than achieving improvements in pay and conditions through across-the-board wage increases," he said in a statement.

Mr Evans said an increase in the minimum wage would have particularly put small businesses under pressure.

 

Below is a statement by CCIWA executive director, economic policy, John Nicolaou:

Today's decision by the Australian Fair Pay Commission to maintain minimum wages at current levels will not only assist Western Australian business and industry ride out the worst of the current global economic uncertainty, but importantly, help protect local jobs.

The State's peak business organisation, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Western Australia, was the only WA based business representative body to call for no increase to the minimum wage until economic and business conditions improve.

It is pleasing the Australian Fair Pay Commission has listened to the Western Australian business community on this important issue.

In its submission to the AFPC, CCI argued that with business and industry across the state and nation working to respond to the global recession, it is vital to ensure that further financial pressures are not imposed on business through higher minimum wages.

To increase the minimum wage would have imposed a significant cost on businesses at a time when they can least afford it.

CCI is pleased the AFPC realises that now is not the time to be adding to the cost of doing business.

A recent survey conducted by CCI asked Western Australian businesses to identify their major concerns for the year ahead. It revealed that global economic growth and wage costs are the top two priorities for 2009.

Today's decision by the AFPC is in the best interests of employers and employees, as it makes job creation and protection the top priority during these uncertain economic times.

 

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