Wage grab draws flak

THE Australian Capital Territory Union’s latest national wage claim of $24 a week has drawn criticism from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

ACCI chief executive Mark Paterson said national wage adjustments were a major obstacle to employment growth.

“Last year the economy grew by 5 per cent yet the growth in full-time employment was a mere 1.7 per cent,” Mr Paterson said.

‘The ACTU wishes to make adjustments to the minimum wage and award rates an annual event.

“It seems to believe there are no harmful effects either to economic growth or employment if wages are continuously pushed up.

“In this, it could not be more wrong.

“The level to which the ACTU wishes to take the minimum wage is $400 per week. Add the usual range of on-costs such as superannuation payments, workers’ compensation and payroll tax – and this would bring the minimum legally payable wage for full-time employees to $25,000 a year.

“It is outrageous to think we would ever get back to full employment, or anything like it, with such large minimum wages standing in the way.”

ACTU secretary Greg Combet said the claim of $24 was fair and economically responsible.

He said up to 1.7 million low paid workers, most of whom were part-timers, casuals and women, stood to benefit from success of the living wage claim.

“Economic growth remains strong, inflation is well within the limits sought by the Reserve Bank and productivity growth has been sustained,” Mr Combet said.

“A $24 increase will help address the widening gap between award-dependent workers and the rest of the employed community,” he said.

A Chamber of Commerce and Industry spokesman said he believed the Federal Government ultimately wanted wages to be worked out through workplace agreements, not arbitration.

“The ACTU wanted the $24 a week wage claim as a general catch up and to accommodate the GST,” the spokesman said.

“That’s double dipping – these considerations are already provided for in tax.”

The media secretary for Employment, Workplace Rela-tions and Small Business Minister Peter Reith said the minister had rejected the ACTU’s claim.

During his address at a recent ACCI conference, Mr Reith said an across the board award increase would impact on inflation, interest rates, competitiveness and employment.

“The state Labor Governments have taken the view that they have the right to put their hand in your payroll and from the middle of this year you can afford to pay $24 a week more to employees and get nothing for it – and that this can be done in the name of good public policy and economic management,” he said.

Labour Relations Minister Cheryl Edwardes said the WA Government’s recent decision to increase the WA adult minimum wage by $21.30 per week was testament to its “commitment to lower wage earners”.

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