“The best remedy for higher wages is a stronger economy, and the way that you get that stronger economy is through responsible economic management,” says the man whose government last year oversaw the biggest fall in real wages this century aside from when the GST was introduced.
As reported by Greg Jericho, “Since September 2013, private-sector wages have grown just 1.4% above inflation, compared to the 4.2% they grew during the Rudd/Gillard governments – despite being in power for three fewer years.”
In February, the Australian Financial Review reported “Investors are primed for the highest levels of corporate profits on record in the year ahead after upbeat half-year results that have calmed fears that rising costs and supply chain hiccups could dampen earnings.”
And it seems the war in Ukraine has only boosted that outlook here as commodity prices soar.
So with low unemployment and high corporate profits, why aren’t wages rising?
Because workers no longer have a collective voice.
The undermining and demonisation of unions has done its job. Workers can no longer even withdraw their labour without facing huge penalties or the sack.
The rot started with the Accord brokered by Bob Hawke. Unions gave up demanding large pay rises in return for social benefits like Medicare and superannuation. But, as time went on and union membership dwindled, so did any pay rises.
Combine that with the erosion of secure work through contracting and labour hire firms and the casualisation of the workforce, the rise of the gig economy and skilled visa workers, and we end up with no representative body protecting workers rights.
The Fair Work Commission has been stacked with employer-friendly commissioners who enjoy enormous salaries to decide that the lowest paid workers don’t need penalty rates and that increasing the minimum wage would be too inflationary.
Worker exploitation is rife and the penalties, if caught, negligible. The same cannot be said about the penalties imposed on unions or workers who engage in industrial action.
Big business, aided and abetted by the Murdoch media, have kept the Coalition in power for twenty of the last twenty-six years and they have been rewarded handsomely for their efforts.
It’s time the workers united again to claim their share of the profits their labour produces. Companies should fulfil their part of the social contract by paying fair wages and taxation.
With 12% of Australians living in poverty, it’s time we had a government that puts the welfare of its people first.
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