Church welcomes wage boost, despite arguing for more

Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv says while the Fair Work Commission’s decision to increase the minimum wage by 5.2 per cent falls short of the Church’s proposal, that boost will make a difference for many Australians.

Through the Australian Catholic Council for Employment Relations (ACCER), the Church’s submission on the national minimum wage said a 6.5 per cent increase was affordable and would deliver a more sustainable standard of living for low-paid workers and their families.

The submission was backed by research within Catholic ministries and in-depth analysis from Australian Catholic University.

On Wednesday, the Fair Work Commission ruled that the minimum wage would increase by 5.2 per cent, just above the most recent inflation figure of 5.1 per cent. The new Albanese Government had argued for a 5.1 per cent increase.

Bishop Long, chair of the Bishops Commission for Social Justice, Mission and Service, which ACCER advises, said while the Church welcomed the 5.2 per cent boost, the ACU research and feedback from Catholic services indicates “many of the lowest-paid Australian families will continue to struggle and experience hardship”.

“The high cost of living means that many families are falling behind,” he said.

“I find it troubling when people are working multiple jobs just to make ends meet and provide for the basic needs of their children, placing greater pressure on already stressed people.

“The idea that working people and their families live in poverty is inconsistent with safety net principles.”

The Church has been making submissions to the Fair Work Commission on the national minimum wage for decades. While this year’s increase is the largest in recent years, it might not offer the social safety net for which the Church has argued.

“We will continue to assess what is needed and what is realistic in terms of supporting low-paid workers, and speak out accordingly,” Bishop Long said.