Labor calls for wage increase to assist “heroes of the pandemic”

tony burke wages abcc summit

Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Tony Burke. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Tony Burke, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, has provided further detail on Labor’s minimum wage submission made this afternoon to the Fair Work Commission (FWC), saying the government recommended that wages should not lag behind the headline inflation rate, backing an increase of at least 5.1%.

Labor’s submission refers specifically to “low paid workers”, and did not limit it to minimum wage workers, with Burke adding that low paid workers have largely been the “heroes of the pandemic”.

Speaking on Friday afternoon, Burke included shop assistants, cleaners and care economy workers as examples, and added that low paid workers tended mostly to be women, who were casually employed and under 30. 

“Given this, a more substantial increase for those on low wages would be beneficial in assisting to narrow the gender pay,” he said. 

“Australians do not want to go backwards,” Burke stressed. 

When asked about the effect a rise in wages would have on already struggling small businesses, Burke noted that some small businesses have already had to increase their wages to keep staff, and that Labor wanted to make sure low wage workers did not go backwards. 

He added that businesses that said they can’t afford a $1 an hour increase “lack an understanding of what Australians are going through”. 

Describing the previous government’s policy of low wages as a “deliberate design feature”, Burke said “the previous government’s attack on wages ended today”. 

“It’s now in the hands of the Fair Work Commission,” Burke said.

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