Freeze on minimum wage levels

Posted by James Ferre on 7th July 2009

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), Australia’s largest business representative, has described today’s decision by the Australian Fair Pay Commission (AFPC) to maintain minimum wages at current levels as the best outcome for both employers and employees, and most importantly, one which will protect jobs.

“It is a decision that is consistent with what should be Australia’s key priorities at this time – the ongoing viability of Australian businesses and the maintenance of jobs for Australian employees,” Mr Greg Evans, Acting Chief Executive of ACCI, suggested. “To do otherwise, would have imposed a higher wage and labour cost burden on hundreds of thousands of small and medium businesses, which would weaken their ability to maintain viability and jobs during the current global economic downturn.”

ACCI’s evidence to the AFPC demonstrated that the incomes of many minimum wage employees and families had been directly increased through the $21.66 wage increase nine months ago, tax cuts and welfare changes, significant interest rate reductions and the proceeds from the Australian Government’s stimulus packages.

The Australian Retailers Association has also welcomed the move.

ARA Executive Director Richard Evans said Australia’s Federal Minimum Wage left unchanged at $543.78 per week, together with the RBA’s decision to hold interest rates (also announced today), would give much needed incentive to employers to retain staff.

“Although there are signs of economic recovery including the stronger Australian dollar and slow and steady retail trade growth, any minimum wage increase wouldn’t have been readily absorbed by retail employers who have struggled with reduced consumer demand over the past 12 months,” Mr Evans advised. “Retailers are confident other stimulus measures including substantial interest rate reductions, tax cuts and the Rudd Government’s cash handouts would provide consumers with the cash and confidence to re-enter the market and allow funds to flow through the rest of the economy.”

“Consumers are beginning to inject funds back into the retail market. This is good news for the rest of the economy that typically lags three to six months behind but this is not the time to be placing extra pressure on employers who have the important job of holding onto staff.”

Mr Evans said the retail industry body is now hoping Fair Work Australia will “consider the economic circumstances, unemployment rates, as well as any impact of Modern Awards” when reviewing the minimum wage next year.