Fair Work Australia to rule on minimum wage, paid to millions of Australians

Wages fail to keep pace with inflation

Millions of Australians on award and minimum wages are poised to find out how much more they will be paid.

But economists warn a too-generous rise could add to pressure on the Reserve Bank to push up interest rates next week.

The Fair Work Commission will release the result of its latest wage review at 10am (AEST) on Friday. The decision affects 2.67 million of the lowest-paid Australians.

Last year, the panel split its decision by awarding a 5.2 per cent increase to 180,000 workers on the lowest minimum wage, in line with inflation at the time.

As well, the umpire outlined an increase of $40 a week or at least 4.6 per cent for 2.6 million people on higher award rates.

In its submission on the wage review, the Albanese government recommended to the FWC that it “ensures the real wages of Australia’s low-paid workers do not go backwards”.

With inflation at 6.8 per cent in the year to April, this would require a wage rise of at least 6.9 per cent.

Westpac economists predicted an average pay increase of 4.6 per cent, which would mean “constant or steady” rather than an increasing contribution to wage inflation.

However, ANZ experts believe there will be a 7 per cent nominal increase in the national minimum wage, in line with headline inflation.

“Risks around this are skewed to the downside, as the commission might seek a mid-point between submissions from unions and employers,” ANZ economists said.

“For modern award minimum wages, we expect a smaller but still substantial nominal increase of five to 5.5 per cent.”

Treasurer Jim Chalmers told parliament he was pleased to see the fastest wage growth in over a decade.

“We will respect whatever decision the independent umpire makes,” he said.

“But the Albanese government will always do what we can to support the wages of workers, particularly the lowest-paid workers in our economy.”

The nation’s largest business network, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, wants a “cautious and calibrated” wage increase of 4 per cent.

This would lift the minimum wage to $841.04 a week, with 3.5 per cent directed to ordinary earnings and 0.5 per cent directed to the expected superannuation increase from July 1.

Peak union body the ACTU has argued for a 7 per cent rise, or about $57 a week for a full-time worker on the minimum wage.

AMP chief economist Shane Oliver said there was a “very high risk” of interest rates being hiked due to the “upside risks to wages flowing from the minimum wage increase, the still tight jobs market and faster public sector wages growth”.

The RBA meets on Tuesday to consider whether to lift the cash rate from its existing 3.85 per cent.


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