Contributed by Jim Hayes
The Fair Work Commission announced lifted the minimum wage by 59 cents an hour yesterday. This means an increase of $22.20 per week.
While this is better than nothing, it is not nearly enough to lift the minimum wage out of poverty. This is particularly, when a growing proportion of Australians are finding themselves in this position.
The commission admitted as much.
The miserable increase does not even go very far in terms of recompensing for the loss brought about by the slashing of penalty rates.
This is a time when the wealth of this country is being taken from those at the bottom and handed to those at the top, at a rate that has not been seen in living memory. At the same time, the cost of living, particularly the cost of housing, has risen alarmingly. Government services that were once paid out of tax money that now must increasingly be paid out of one’s pocket adds to the difficulties, add to the burden.
Without a substantial increase in the minimum wage, a large part of Australia faces impoverishment.
In addition to the harm caused to those falling further and further behind, wages that are too low will only lead to further stagnation of the Australian economy. This is because by reducing the ability to spend the market for goods and services contracts.
Short term profits have soared for major companies. They may be laughing all the way to the bank. But there is a heavy price. They are cutting their own throats, by undermining the condition on which their business depends. Individual greed for immediate gain, gets in the way of what is sensible for the economy.
It is true that a higher minimum wage and higher wages overall will not in themselves fix the problems that the Australian economy faces. These are rooted deeply within its structure. But increasing the capacity of the population would make a good start.
The government, nor the Fair Work Commission are going to take the lead. This must go to the trade union movement, because it is the only force capable of making the difference. The negative side is that it is considerably weaker than it used to be and there needs to be an effort to increase membership. If we haven’t done so already, every one of us should join our union.
Australia needs a major campaign to increase minimum wages above the poverty level and ensure that a greater proportion of the wealth of the nation goes into the hands of wage earners in general.
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