Business groups say they want higher wages, but their actions show the opposite

by Lily Raynes

Business groups like the ACCI and AI Group say they want higher wages, but their recommendations for minimum wage rises show they rarely want real wages to rise

At the Senate hearings into the Fair Work Act this week, representatives from the AI Group suggested that “we are not opposing increased wages; we want a system that enables it to occur for everyone’s benefit. Otherwise, it’ll be a very short-term win.” They further argued that “we all want a system—and we want a system—that enables employers to pay sustainable increased wages.”

And yet over the past 5 years when the AI Group has recommended wages rises to the Fair Work Commissions it has consistently argued for wages rises mostly in line with inflation. Such wages increases, had they occurred, would have left workers on the minimum wage without any increase in real wages or living standards.

Similarly, representatives from the ACCI told the Senate committee that “we want higher wages for Australians” and yet when given the opportunity to seek higher wages for the lowest paid it rarely even advocates for a wage rise above inflation.

For 2019-20, both ACCI and the AI Group advocated for no increase at all in the minimum wage.

This year, when inflation was already at 5.1% ,ACCI recommended a 3% rise in the minimum wage while AI Group recommended a mere 2.5%. It argued that a 5.1% rise (ie in line with inflation at that time) “would have adverse impacts on the economy, on unemployment, on underemployment and on sentiment, and would be a setback for many low-income households”.

The history is clear – business groups might say in the media and at Senate hearings that they want wage rises, but when it comes time to actually advocate for them – they reveal their true colours.

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