Unions push case for increase to the minimum wage

08 February 2010
 
Trade unions are gearing up for another battle on behalf of Australia's 1.3 million low-paid workers by campaigning for a catch-up increase to the federal minimum wage.
 
The Australian Fair Pay Commission, in July last year, froze the minimum wage at $543.78, rejecting the unions' claim for a $21 a week increase.
 
"I think the amount will be above that," ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence told ABC Radio on Monday when asked what the unions would seek from this year's review.
 
But he played down suggestions the claim could be between $30 and $40 a week.
 
"I'm not saying that is the amount, but we're talking about a moderate stimulus to people's purchasing power," he said, adding economic circumstances had changed since the commission's 2009 decision.
 
"There's no reason why minimum wage-earners should be disadvantaged," he said.
 
Treasurer Wayne Swan says the federal government will be looking for a balanced outcome that maximises economic and employment growth and minimises inflationary potential.
 
Asked on ABC radio if low-income workers deserve a pay rise Mr Swan said fairness also comes into it.
 
The federal opposition says employers cannot afford to pay minimum wage workers big increases.
 
"What we have got to do is really look at what can be afforded, not what the unions want," opposition finance spokesman Barnaby Joyce told Sky News.
 
But he declined to nominate an amount that was affordable, saying it was up to the commission.