When Tony Abbott, contrary to his 2013 election promise that there would be “no adverse changes to superannuation”, chose to delay/abandon the scheduled increase in the Superannuation Guarantee from 9% to 12%, he tried to pretend that we would be better off.
“I can confirm, in response to the Leader of the Opposition, that money that would otherwise be squirrelled away in superannuation funds will instead be in the pockets of the workers of Australia,” the Prime Minister told Parliament in September 2014.
“I want to see for the next 10 years this money stay in the pockets of the workers of Australia. If the workers of Australia wish to invest that money in superannuation they are perfectly free to do so but, as far as I am concerned, for the next 10 years that money should stay in the pockets of the workers of Australia,” he said.
Former Reserve Bank governor Bernie Fraser, who has sat on the board of industry super funds, told ABC Radio that unions did not have the power to press for wage increases to make up for the lower super contributions.
“Employers are not going to say, ‘well look, we don’t have to make this mandatory improvement in super contributions so therefore we are going to give the equivalent amount to workers’ – that’s not going to happen,” Mr Fraser said.
And he was right.
Abbott’s naïve, or more likely dishonest, claim that employers would, off their own bat, automatically increase wages did not eventuate despite corporate profits reaching record highs.
Over the course of 2016, company profits rose 26% while wages rose by about 2%.
The Fair Work Commission’s Annual Wage Review 2016–17, which recommended a 3.3% increase in the minimum wage, made some interesting observations.
Over the 5 years to the December quarter 2016, labour productivity growth in the market sector was higher than the previous 5-year period and rose sharply in 2016.
On an annual basis, profit growth was particularly strong in 2016 compared with the preceding years and above the 5-year and 10-year averages for both total industries and non-mining industries.
The principal business conditions surveys show that the assessment of business conditions is positive and above long-term average levels.
Over the last 5 years, the real value of the National Minimum Wage and modern award rates has grown at 4.3 per cent, which is less than half the rate of growth of labour productivity.
In previous Reviews, the Panel has accepted that if the low paid are forced to live in poverty then their needs are not being met and that those in full-time employment can reasonably expect a standard of living that exceeds poverty levels. While we have not departed from that position, we acknowledge that the increase we propose to award will not lift all award-reliant employees out of poverty, particularly those households with dependent children and a single-wage earner. However, to grant an increase to the National Minimum Wage and award minimum rates of the size necessary to immediately lift all full-time workers out of poverty is likely to have adverse employment effects on those groups who are already marginalised in the labour market, with a corresponding impact on the vulnerability of households to poverty due to loss of employment or hours.
In other words, it doesn’t matter how much profit corporations are making, or how great the labour productivity gains are, any attempt to ask for a liveable wage will result in loss of employment or hours.
But hey, let’s cut penalty rates and give big business a 5% tax cut. And while we’re at it, let’s destroy unions and outlaw any form of industrial action because we can’t have the workers uniting to demand adequate recompense for their labour. Make them all casual or put them on temporary contracts so they don’t make waves.
Keep the proletariat poor, in debt and scared – it’s the capitalist way.
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