Bishops welcome minimum wage increase, despite wanting more

The Australian bishops have welcomed the minimum wage increase, even though they asked for a larger increase

The Australian Catholic Council for Employment Relations has welcomed the largest increase in the minimum wage in three decades, even though the increase fell below the Council’s submission of 7.2 per cent.

However, the increase for C13 award rates is equivalent to an 8.6 per cent increase.

The Council, which advises the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, used detailed financial modelling, assessing the needs of workers and the capacity of employers to pay higher wages, to make the case for a 7.2 per cent increase in the minimum wage this year.

The Council said in its submission to the Fair Work Commission that “where the current minimum wage does not allow individuals that are employed on a full-time basis to live without poverty, the minimum wage is not an effective safety net”.

On June 2, the Fair Work Commission’s Expert Panel announced that modern award rates are set to increase by 5.75 per cent from July 1.

Most notably, the minimum wage will have a one-off increase of 8.6 per cent, as the minimum wage will now be set at the higher C13 classification wage rate, as opposed to the previous C14 classification wage rate, in addition to the base 5.75 per cent increase.

Bishop Michael Kennedy, the Bishop Delegate for Employment Relations, said the Fair Work Commission’s announcement elicited a mixed reaction.

“We recognise the significant impact the Fair Work Commission’s decision will have on some of the country’s lowest-paid workers, and we celebrate that,” Bishop Kennedy said.

“We do fear, though, that even this large increase will see tens of thousands of Australians earning below what the bishops believe is a just and fair wage.

“We will advocate for further progress in coming years to build on this encouraging step.”
The Bishops Conference has made annual submissions on the national minimum wage for several decades.

It has argued consistently that working people and their families living in poverty is inconsistent with principles that see the minimum wage as a “safety net”.