Neither employers nor governments are doing enough to support low-paid Australians, and particularly Australian families, the Church has told the Fair Work Commission. Source: ACBC Media Blog.
The Church has made submissions on the minimum wage since 2003 with a focus on low-paid workers and their families, arguing for a decent standard of living for wage-dependent families.
Megan Kavanagh, a member of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Employment Relations Reference Group, said there has been a tradition in Australia – dating back to the Harvester decision in 1907 – that people in full-time work with dependants should not live in poverty.
“The current level of the minimum wage falls far short of the objective identified and set by Harvester in a much less prosperous Australia 112 years ago,” she said.
Ms Kavanagh said although Australia clearly has a much greater economic capacity to support working families and protect children against poverty than it did more than a century ago, including through the modern social safety net, that is not the lived reality for a large number of families.
She said the value of the minimum wage, relative to national wage levels, has decreased significantly over the past two decades.
“The Fair Work Commission last year found that the minimum wage provided a reasonable income for a single adult without family responsibilities,” Ms Kavanagh said.
“In other words, what was an inadequate wage for a family two decades ago has become a reasonable wage for a single adult without family responsibilities. That is simply unacceptable.”
In its submission, the ACBC has argued that the minimum wage be increased from $719.20 per week to $760.00 per week, making the minimum wage $20 per hour. It calls for award wages to be increased by $31.00 per week and 3.7 per cent for wages above $837.40 per week.
“The process to reverse two decades of inadequate responsiveness to the economic realities facing families can’t happen overnight, but we believe our recommendations are an important step,” Ms Kavanagh said.
Joe Zabar, director of economic policy at Catholic Social Services Australia, said the living standards of Australians on the minimum wage or in other low-paid roles can be lifted by higher wages, additional government assistance or both.
Catholic Church calls for living wage for Australian families (ACBC Media Blog)