The Australian Fair Pay Commission has today (26-Oct-06) awarded low-paid workers in Australia an increase of $27. 36 per week for those earning up to $700/week. This represents a 5.7% increase. THe rise is $22 for those earning more than $700, representing a rise of 3.1% in 18 months, or less.
One submission (Des Moore) to the Commission said it was unfortunate that it could not decrease the wages, on the basis of a quote from the Gospel of St Luke ("Blessed are the poor.."), and that welfare payments should make up the rest! (http://www.hrnicholls.com.au/Special/DesMooreFPCsubmission.pdf.)
The increase given represents about 5.7%, but the people affected have not had an increase for more than 18 months! Recent reports have indicated that while unemployment is at "record low levels", the figures are tainted by counting 1-hour/wwek as an employed person! Other reports indicate that profits generated per worker at at all-time highs. The treasurer has expressed publicly his concern at the rate (%) increases in CEO salary packkages and options.
Per centage comparisons with others are difficult, because the dollar cost increases in living are important. Does a politician in 2006 NEED $300/week more to maintain only essential living expenses (as distinct from optional, higher standard expenses), while a low-paid worker only need $27?
The Minister, Kevin Andrews stated that the $27.36 was good news for workers and that any criticism of the Government was unwarranted. However, the basis if the Fair Pay Commission is that it resides as part of the Ministry, and could therefore be subject to political interference by the Government. With a Federal election due in the next 12 months or so, the Government would not want a low pay rise - the backlash and political implications would be too great!
I think that it is not possible to fully trust the independence of the FPC, because it was established to give the Government control over who got pay rises, when, and how little.
Anything the Minister says is just spin - take it with a barrel of salt.