“In a supplementary submission to the current Annual Wage Review, the Australian Industry Group has argued that no wage increase should be awarded this year,” Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the national employer association Ai Group, said today.
“This is the first time in the past 30 years that Ai Group has completely opposed a minimum wage increase, but a wage increase in the current circumstances would make no sense.
“In its latest forecasts, the Reserve Bank of Australia expects the unemployment rate to reach 10%. The National Accounts figures for the March quarter, that will be released on 3 June, will include the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis that has since been at the centre of the sharp and deep deterioration in the labour market and economic activity. The June quarter National Accounts figures will undoubtedly be even worse.
“Awarding a minimum wage increase in this year’s Review would not be in anyone’s interests – certainly not in the interests of low skilled workers who would be much more likely to lose their jobs, or in the interests of the hundreds of thousands of workers who have joined the dole queues. Over the months ahead, during the recovery from the Pandemic, the priority needs to be on assisting businesses to retain as many employees as possible and encouraging businesses to take on employees.
“Ai Group’s submission also strongly opposes a Fair Work Commission idea to potentially award a different wage outcome to employees of employers eligible under the JobKeeper scheme. The submission includes a detailed analysis of this idea and concludes that it would not be in the interests of employers or employees.
“The submission argues that if the Commission decides to award a wage increase this year, despite Ai Group’s strong opposition, it should not be operative before 1 January 2021. The Fair Work Act allows the Commission to delay the operative date of a minimum wage increase in ‘exceptional circumstances’. If ‘exceptional circumstances’ are not held to exist this year, it is hard to see what circumstances would be sufficient to convince the Panel that such circumstances exist.
“Under the Fair Work Act, the Fair Work Commission is required to hand down a decision in the Annual Wage Review before the end of June,” Mr Willox said.