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NSW wages going backwards, say ACTU

November 24 2006 - New research by ACTU appears to show that workers in New South Wales are being hard hit by the Government's industrial relations laws with average wages for full time employees falling by AS$33 a week in real terms over the last year.

The research presented to the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) conference in Sydney shows NSW workers have experienced the biggest fall in real wages for full time workers. The report highlights the effect of new industrial relations legislation of reducing living standards for many working Australians and the potential emergence of a US-style two-tiered society with high levels of inequality and poverty.

ACTU president Sharan Burrow said:

"While the economic boom means corporate profits are at an all time high, there is a growing class of people in Australia that are being left behind. Our latest research shows that the Howard Government's unfair IR laws are a contributing factor.

"Average real wages for full time workers throughout Australia are failing to keep pace with inflation for the first time since the introduction of the GST. Recent data also shows that workers in the hospitality and retail industries are being hardest hit.

Workers in our shops, cafes and bars are bearing the brunt of the new IR laws. They work in sectors of the economy where many employers have moved to take advantage of the new IR laws by cutting penalty rates, overtime payments, public holiday pay and annual leave loading.

"The Government's own workplace agency (the OEA) has admitted that two-thirds (63 per cent) of new AWA individual contracts registered under the IR laws scrap penalty rates, a third cut overtime pay, half get rid of shift allowances and another third do away with public holiday payments.

At the same time as workers are facing a fall in the real value of their take-home pay, the cost of living is up with interest rates rising three times this year despite the Prime Minister promising to keep interest rates low. No wonder working families are struggling to make ends meet."

Ms Burrow's also warned that the current Australian growth phase will not last forever. She commented:

"If there is an economic downturn many people will start to feel the effects. Real wages could go down further, people could lose their jobs and Australians who are mortgaged to the hilt could lose their homes and many may be forced to turn to charities for help. The Howard Government's IR policy means that in a downturn low paid workers will be hung out to dry when they most need protection and support."


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