Commitment to independent wages system welcomed

Labor’s announcement today that it will maintain an independent minimum wage system is welcome, Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott said.

“Full-time workers deserve a wage that allows them to support themselves, they also need the jobs that only thriving businesses can create. An independent umpire is the best way to balance these demands.

“An independent commission with broader terms of reference alongside a thorough review to determine a living wage are sensible steps. Employers also welcome Labor’s commitment to considering the tax and transfer system in any future determinations.

“The Business Council has long supported the Productivity Commission’s recommendation that the Fair Work Commission broaden its framework for determining minimum wage increases while also considering the impact that any increase may have on the labour market and the economy more broadly.   

“Businesses employ 11 million of the 13 million working Australians, their capacity to pay for increasing wages must be considered carefully in any decision. Announcements today are a good step towards workable reform that ensures all voices are heard and that the enterprise bargaining system remains central to Australia’s workplace relations system.

“The Opposition has listened to employers concerns, ensuring that any increase in the minimum wage is phased in over time. Clearly it is Labor’s intention to target the lowest paid workers by announcing that changes would not flow through to workers on awards or enterprise bargaining agreements, it will be important to see exactly how this mechanism works.

“Higher wages for low paid workers are a good aspiration but Australia needs a national plan to boost wages across the economy. That should start with a strategy to attract investment and supercharge the real driver of wages, productivity growth.

“A minimum wage increase is not a panacea for disadvantaged Australians. Political leaders should act to tackle entrenched disadvantage through a Productivity Commission inquiry to better target resources to those who need them and by increasing the inadequate Newstart allowance for single people.”