Thursday 16 June 2022

The 5.2% pay increase

awarded by the Fair Work Commission has already been claimed as a "win" by the Prime Minister and the union movement. The former smugly suggested his government was "delivering for the lowest paid workers". The latter claim it would not have come about without their intervention. 

Both are wrong. The lowest paid workers are getting nothing at all - indeed most of them work for nothing. A few get the "Carer's Allowance" for their care of a family member. Of those that do, and I know a few, they use the money to help pay things like the electricity bill. For the most though there is an army of unpaid grandparents and the like who are simply expected to "volunteer" and who might even be paying to do so. 

And while the union movement might like to try and claim credit the reality is that the Fair Work Commission meets on a regular basis and sets the minimum wage. That's what the FWC is there for and, while union demands might be put before them, it is not how wage increases are decided.

Now yes, inflation has risen. The Reserve Bank wants this back under control and the 5.2% increase is of concern to them. It isn't going to help. Someone has to pay for the wage increase.

Someone in the next street employs a number of people. Knowing what was likely to come he held a meeting with them, showed them the books and said something like, "I am paying myself less than I am paying you. I can afford to pay four of you the likely increase - not five. Or you can all keep your positions and when the two new contracts start in September and October I can increase your wages then and give you the back pay. It's up to you. Everyone kept their jobs. He's a good employer with a good business that was hit hard by the pandemic. His workers are loyal and work hard for him.

It was one of his workers who told me about this. He had come around to see me to ask if he could have a look in the shed for a piece of timber. Out on one of their regular jobs he had found a small job which needed doing to make it easier for a disabled employee in another business to do their job. He was going back to do it in his own time. This is the sort of man the other one employs.

"None of us wanted to see anyone else lose their job. He'll pay us when he can and if he can't then too bad. Things are tough and that bit extra would make a real difference but we all have mortgages and you know what that means."

Not everyone could afford to put that sort of offer out there. There are places where a union person would object and demand the wage increase even if someone else was out of a job. I wonder though how much of this sort of thing will go on. I hope there is more understanding when people genuinely need to work out ways and means of paying the increase, much more of it. Pay rises are undoubtedly nice but keeping a job is surely even better?


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