Rise of WA Minimum Wage is ‘Not Enough’
16 June 2017 at 5:01 pm
The peak body for the social service sector in WA has said the $16-a-week rise for the state’s lowest paid workers is welcome, but is not enough.
The state Industrial Relations Commission announced on Wednesday there would be an increase to the minimum wage in Western Australia to $708.90 week.
The increase, which comes into effect on 1 July, is expected to benefit more than 100,000 low-paid workers.
But the WA Council of Social Service (WACOSS) expressed concern that the increase was insufficient to arrest growing inequality within Western Australia.
WACOSS CEO Louise Giolitto said that for many, the state minimum wage was “simply not enough” to meet living costs, particularly for singles and single parents.
“More and more people in our state are struggling to cover basic essentials like their utility bills, with the last year seeing a significant increase in electricity and gas customers seeking assistance, and further significant price hikes already indicated for the coming state budget,” Giolitto said.
“Poverty is a profound social determinant of health and psychological well being. And at the same time, the evidence shows that inequality is a brake on economy growth and sustainability.
“We know from the latest Anglicare rental survey that singles in Perth are only able to find 1 per cent of available rentals that are appropriate and affordable for them, with single parents looking at just 6 per cent. A minimum wage that is only able to cover rental expenses when you have a second source of income is clearly not adequate.”
Her sentiments were echoed by UnionsWA which labelled the increase of $16 as “disappointing” and a “missed opportunity of economic fairness”.
UnionsWA secretary Meredith Hammat said economically, times were “pretty tough in WA right now”.
“This pay decision is particularly disappointing as it is a missed opportunity,” Hammat said.
“Low paid working people spend all that they earn on essential living expenses and so increasing their pay would provide a much-needed boost to our local economy.”
Hammat said wages growth in WA was the weakest it had been in the last three decades and for the past three years, had been lower than wages growth nationally.
“While any wage increase is welcome, a $16 per week increase, equal to a 2.3 per cent increase, still leaves low-paid workers well behind compared to average weekly earnings,” she said.
“UnionsWA had recommended a flat $45 per week increase for the lowest paid in WA, equal to a 6.5 per cent for a full-time adult on the minimum wage.
“There are more people working casual or part time jobs than ever.
“About 100,000 working people in WA rely on the minimum wage and live week to week, with no spare change.”
WACOSS called for the state government to overturn changes to community service funding, which they said was creating “a growing gap between the need to deliver wage increases to low-paid community workers and inadequate indexation of service funding”.
“Community service funding has only been indexed at 0.83 per cent, compared to the $16 per week or 2.3 per cent increases under the state wage decision, 3.3 per cent under the federal minimum wage decision and even higher rate increases under the ERO – meaning that some providers may be forced to reduce the quality or level of services delivered to our most vulnerable to keep their doors open,” Giolitto said.
“The majority of our workforce are women undertaking challenging and skilled work with those in need for comparatively little reward.
“We are calling on the premier to re-instate the policy of the previous WA Labor government that saw service funding linked to wages to ensure the sustainability of service for our community.”