By William Olson
While the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has been calling out the various LNP governments since 2013 for stagnant wage growth, statistics reveal that wages have slowed to their lowest points since wage price index statistics started being tracked in 1997 – no matter how they’re to be measured.
Both the ACTU and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) have interpreted Treasury figures that wage growth is down by 2.1 per cent in the quarter ending in June, 0.2 per cent lower than the previous quarter ending in March, and down 1.8 per cent over a 12-month span – numbers which justify that a once-in-a-generation recession is happening in Australia.
“Working people have been living through a wage growth crisis for more than seven years, but this crisis has driven wages to new lows,” said Sally McManus, the ACTU’s national secretary.
And while the ACTU has been making deafening calls for the Morrison government to institute programs promoting jobs creation, not to cut existing schemes of JobKeeper and JobSeeker, come up with a plan for national paid pandemic leave, as well as promoting their latest push to fully expand JobKeeper, they now have a range of like-minded allies to help advocate for those economic remedies.
“The biggest lesson we’re learning from COVID-19 is that you can’t leave anyone behind,” Bandt said last week.
“It’s important that we provide everyone with the support they need to be able to cope with this pandemic and ensure restrictions have the best chance of working,” he added.
In addition to Bandt’s emphasis of a fundamental socio-economic truth arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, MP’s within the ALP echo those concerns, along with pointing out the shortcomings of which ministers in the Morrison government have already done.
“On its latest attempt to fix the program, the government has still failed to support millions of workers that were originally excluded,” said Tony Burke, in his role as the shadow minister for industrial relations.
“Labor is still concerned that other aspects of the wind down of JobKeeper will come at the worst time for workers and businesses in Victoria and in other parts of Australia and that the Government continues to exclude millions of workers from JobKeeper,” he added.
Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers, in concurring with Burke, has been critical that the Morrison government has little to show for its intermittent efforts – aside from the establishment of a few schemes and programs in the five months that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected Australian society and culture, as well as the nation’s economy.
“We’ve been saying for some time that the deterioration in the economy should force the Government to reconsider its changes to JobKeeper,” said Chalmers.
“These changes are welcome but they are a tweak, not a plan, and don’t do enough to tackle the jobs crisis that continues to worsen,” added Chalmers.
McManus insists that a comprehensive jobs-creation plan – defined within her declaration of “working people have to lead this recovery” – exists as a key element of the government’s recovery blueprint.
In doing so, McManus has called for the government to make it public, in areas falling under that of jobs minister Michaelia Cash’s portfolio within the Morrison government.
“We are almost six months into this pandemic and we have no jobs plan. This data shows one is desperately needed,” said McManus.
“We need to put money in the hands of working people and give them the security they need to spend it. If we don’t support working people, they can’t support the economy,” McManus added.
And according to Brendan O’Connor, the ALP’s shadow minister for small and family business, a jobs plan leads a positive domino effect of getting people employed so that they can participate in a revitalised economy.
And with those intentions and goals in mind, it is something which Prime Minister Scott Morrison, his cabinet, and his ministers have to plan and think through as thoroughly as possible.
“We don’t want people left out and left behind in Australia’s first recession in 30 years, we want them to get ahead in the recovery, and that’s why Australians can’t afford for the Government to get this wrong,” said O’Connor.
With the power in numbers that the ACTU has behind them, even if Labor do not hold a Parliamentary majority, their collective efforts will do their best to keep the Morrison government honest.
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