Friday, June 13, 2008

What’s Fair About The Fair Pay Commission?

The secretary of the ACTU Jeff Lawrence has called upon the Fair Pay Commission to hand down a wage rise in line with the increases already given to statutory officials and judges, including the Commission’s own Chairman Ian Harper. That figure is 4.3 per cent, which is a smidge above inflation and a bee’s wing less than the Union claim for $26 on the minimum wage. It is also well below the 6 per cent wages growth which has been seen in the public service. By contrast, the Australian Chamber Of Commerce and Industry has called for a wage rise of $10.25, which is 2 per cent of the minimum wage.

The Australian people have been told repeatedly of the dangers of inflation and the need to fight it by pushing up interest rates at the same time as restraining wages growth. It’s for the good of the economy and for our own long term benefit, we are told. Unfortunately that doesn’t make it any easier to fill up the tank or buy the groceries.

The fact of the matter is that any increase less than inflation is a de facto pay cut at a time when people on minimum incomes are already struggling. It is no comfort to them to hear that the best way to fight inflation is to reduce their spending power. More than that, it is insulting to hear it from people who are paid six figure salaries, and who are happily pocketing increases well above inflation.

All the politicians, public servants, statutory officials and business leaders who are telling Australians to take an effective pay cut are making their pronouncements from within the ivory tower of privilege. Ordinary working families are entitled to ask a very simple question. If all these highly paid experts think it is so important to impose restraints on the economy, why will they not start with themselves and lead by example.

Don’t be misled by the Orwellian name of the Fair Pay Commission. There is no guarantee that the final decision will actually be fair.

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