Showing posts with label employment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label employment. Show all posts

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Turnbull Government, business and industry still out to suppress minimum wage


According to the Australian Treasury in November 2017;  

On a variety of measures, wage growth is low....

However, weaker labour productivity growth seems unlikely to be a cause of the current period of slow wage growth in Australia. Over the past five years, labour productivity in Australia has grown at around its 30-year average annual growth rate....

An examination of wage growth by employee characteristics using the Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey and administrative taxation data suggests that recent subdued wage growth has been experienced by the majority of employees, regardless of income or occupation.....

This is true across the States and Territories, across industries, and across both the public and private sectors. Real wage growth – wage growth relative to the increase in prices in the economy – has also been low.

The Reserve Bank of Australia suggests in its March Quarter 2017 Bulletin that there is"

...some tentative evidence that the relationship between wage growth and labour market conditions may have changed, and that this may help to explain recent low wage growth. Using job-level micro wage data, we also find that, since 2012, wage increases have been less frequent and wage growth outcomes have become much more similar across jobs.


Being paid at the minimum wage rate means that a worker is paid the lowest hourly income for his/her labour that is legally allowable.

At the beginning of the 21st Century (January 2001) the national minimum wage was $10.53 per hour or $400.40 per 38 hour week (before tax).

The current national minimum wage is $18.29 per hour or $694.90 per 38 hour week (before tax) according to the Fair Work Commission.

That represents a rise of $7.76 an hour over the course of 17 years - the equivalent of 45 cents a year.

Not a spectacular hourly base wage growth by any measure.

In March 2018 the Australian Federation of Employers and Industries (AFEI), Australian Retailers Association, Restaurant & Catering Industrial (RCI), Australian Business Industrial and the NSW Business Chamber Ltd (along with eight other industry representatives) made initial submissions to the Fair Work Commission Annual Wage Review 2017-18.

It will come as no surprise that any decent rise in the minimum wage is being resisted in these submissions.

A number of business and industry representatives appear to believe that even raising the minimum wage hourly rate by as little as 34-35 cents is an onerous burden.

Frequent mention is made of the supposed part the businesses they represent play in national ‘jobs and growth’ and the risk wage increases allegedly pose.

A notion supported by the Turnbull Government’s own submission.

Couched in polite terms within their submissions is the last resort position of both the federal government and big business. 

It seems they are reluctantly willing to accept a minimum wage increase that doesn't rise by more than 1.9% (rate of inflation in December 2017) and definitely resist the idea of a rise that actually results in real wages growth.

However, there is another less polite aspect of the part businesses play in the lives of workers and it should be remembered when listening to business and industry representatives make their wage case during media appearances.

The Australian Government Fair Work Ombudsman’s 2018 media releases offer a window on that other aspect which includes a widespread contempt for both workers and the law.

 Media release, 16 March 2018:

Western Sydney campaign reveals high rates of unlawful workplaces

High rates of non-compliance uncovered by the Fair Work Ombudsman in Western Sydney have reinforced the importance of ensuring that Australia’s culturally and linguistically diverse communities have ready access to workplace information and advice.

The Fair Work Ombudsman today released the results of its proactive education and compliance campaign in the region, covering suburbs including Cabramatta, Guildford, Mt Druitt, Fairfield and Merrylands.

Almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of the 197 businesses audited by the Fair Work Ombudsman during the campaign were found to be non-compliant with workplace laws.

The campaign led to a total of $369,324 in unpaid wages and entitlements being recovered for 199 workers.

Sixty-four per cent of businesses were compliant with record-keeping and payslip requirements, while just 58 per cent were paying their employees correctly.

The campaign was initiated following an increase in the number of requests for assistance received from some parts of the region in previous years, despite an overall decrease across New South Wales in the same period.

As part of the campaign, Fair Work inspectors conducted site visits with a particular focus on Harris Park and Parramatta in response to intelligence received by the agency indicating potential non-compliance amongst restaurants in the area.

The suburbs are also home to a higher than average proportion of migrants, with both Harris Park (85 per cent) and Parramatta (74 per cent) at more than twice the national average of 30.2 per cent.

Acknowledging that new arrivals to Australia may have a limited awareness of Australian workplace laws, it was considered that businesses in the region would benefit from tailored support and education from the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Only two of the 23 businesses visited in these suburbs were found to be fully compliant – a non-compliance rate of 91 per cent.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says the non-compliance rates uncovered by the campaign are highly concerning and cannot be tolerated.

“Where possible, we seek to educate employers and employees about their workplace rights and obligations and equip them with the tools and information they need to ensure they are complying with the law,” Ms James said.

“This area has a large proportion of people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, who can find it more challenging to navigate that information or even know where to find it in the first place.

“When combined with a lack of familiarity with workplace laws, language barriers can present significant difficulties to employers seeking to understand and comply with their obligations. 

“The results of this campaign reaffirm the importance of my agency’s work in reaching out to culturally and linguistically diverse communities to raise awareness of the help we can provide.

“We are also making more and more of our tools and resources available in multiple languages, including our Anonymous Report function and the Record My Hours app,” Ms James said.

“Our website can also be viewed in 40 languages other than English with a simple click of the mouse with our new website translator.

“With the wealth of free information and resources available to help businesses understand their obligations, there are no excuses for breaching workplace laws.”
Overall, Fair Work inspectors issued 26 formal cautions, 20 infringement notices (on-the-spot fines) and 11 compliance notices to non-compliant businesses during the course of the campaign.

In one matter, a restaurant business was found to be paying its casual employees under an old award, resulting in a total underpayment of $10,444 to three employees. Fair Work inspectors issued the employer with a compliance notice, and the employees were fully back-paid in accordance with the notice.

Ms James said that non-compliant businesses were now on notice that future breaches could result in serious enforcement action.

“We are happy to work with businesses who require advice and support to meet their workplace obligations, and we will continue our work to ensure our materials are easily accessible to those that need them,” Ms James said.

“Indeed, we were pleased that the employers that we dealt with over the course of this campaign were cooperative and willing to engage with our inspectors, and that all contraventions were willingly rectified.

“We will continue to pursue new initiatives aimed at engaging with businesses in the region to ensure they have access to the help and information they need.”

Ms James reaffirmed however that her agency will not hesitate to take action where deliberate or repeated breaches of the law were identified.

“Employers who fail to put in place processes to ensure compliance expose themselves to enforcement action, including litigation in the most serious cases,” Ms James said.

Employers and employees seeking assistance can visit www.fairwork.gov.au or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94. An interpreter service is available on 13 14 50. 

Potential workplace breaches can be anonymously reported in 16 languages other than English using the Fair Work Ombudsman’s Anonymous Report function at www.fairwork.gov.au/inlanguageanonymousreport.

The Fair Work Ombudsman recently developed six videos in 16 languages other than English to help visa holders to understand their workplace rights. These and other in-language resources are available at www.fairwork.gov.au/languages.

The Fair Work Ombudsman’s Record My Hours app is aimed at tackling the persistent problem of underpayment of vulnerable workers by using geo-fencing technology to provide workers with a record of the time they spend at their workplace. The app is available in a number of different languages and can be downloaded from the App Store and Google Play.

Follow Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James on Twitter @NatJamesFWO external-icon.png, the Fair Work Ombudsman @fairwork_gov_au External link icon or find us on Facebook www.facebook.com/fairwork.gov.au External link icon.

Sign up to receive the Fair Work Ombudsman’s media releases direct to your email inbox at www.fairwork.gov.au/mediareleases.  

Read the Western Sydney Campaign report (PDF 445.5KB)  [my yellow highlighting]

Media Release, 5 March 2018:
The Fair Work Ombudsman’s latest Compliance Activity Report shows a workplace non-compliance rate of 76 per cent in the Caltex service network…..
The Fair Work Ombudsman commenced proceedings against the former operator of the Caltex Five Dock service station in Sydney, Aulion Pty Ltd, and has also initiated proceedings against Abdul Wahid and Sons Pty Ltd, the former franchisee of a number of Caltex outlets in Sydney.
In both cases, the Fair Work Ombudsman alleges that the absence of accurate time and wage records prevented inspectors from completing audits and determining whether employees had received their lawful entitlements.
During the activity, the regulator issued nine infringement notices, 11 compliance notices and 16 formal cautions to non-compliant franchisees.
Inspectors also recovered a total of $9,329.85 in back-pay for 26 workers who were underpaid during a one-month assessment period.
Ms James said the agency believes the figure would be higher if underpayments could have been accurately calculated, but with so many deficiencies in the outlets’ records it is impossible to be sure of the true extent of the wage rip-offs. 
“There’s no question that if these findings indicate the norm in this network, and if these underpayments are replicated throughout the business month after month, we are quickly looking at millions of dollars of underpayments over the course of a few years,” Ms James said…..

Media Release, 2 March 2018:
The Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced legal action against the former franchisee of a 7-Eleven retail outlet in the Melbourne CBD for allegedly exploiting three international students through a cash-back scheme.
Facing Court are Xia Jing Qi Pty Ltd, which operated a 7-Eleven retail store on William Street until March 2017, and the store’s former manager, Ai Ling “Irene” Lin.
It is alleged that after 7-Eleven head office set up a high-tech payroll system in 2016 aimed at ensuring employees were paid lawful minimum rates, the company and Ms Lin tried to disguise underpayments of three employees by requiring them to pay back thousands of dollars in wages.  
The three employees were Chinese students, aged between 21 and 24, who were in Australia on student visas. Ms Lin, from Taiwan, was also in Australia on a student visa…..

Media Release, 27 Feb 2018:
The Fair Work Ombudsman has brought proceedings relating to redundancy entitlements, in a new legal action against services company Spotless Services Australia Limited for allegedly contravening workplace laws when it terminated the employment of three workers at Perth International Airport.

Media Release, 26 Feb 2018:
The operator of a Degani café in Melbourne’s north-east is facing Court after he allegedly used false records to conceal more than $12,000 in underpayments of staff, including teenagers and overseas workers.

Media Release, 21 Feb 2018:
The operators of a Melbourne restaurant have been hit with nearly $200,000 in penalties, after a Judge ruled they deliberately underpaid workers.

Media Release, 20 Feb 2018
A Perth security company has been penalised in Court for underpaying its guards more than $200,000, with a Judge saying the company’s claim that it thought overpaying in relation to minimum rates would “counteract” other rates of pay was a “lame excuse”.

Media Release, 16 Feb 2018:
The operator of a number of massage parlours in Adelaide who said he was “too busy and lazy” to keep proper records has been penalised for contraventions of record-keeping and pay slip laws, following legal action by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Media Release, 15 Feb 2018:
The Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced legal action against a Bundaberg-based transport company for allegedly underpaying an employee more than $11,000 over a period of just nine months.

Media Release, 14 Feb 2018:
Cleaning contractors at 90 per cent of Woolworths’ Tasmanian supermarket sites were not complying with workplace laws, a Fair Work Ombudsman Inquiry has found.

Media Release, 13 Feb 2018:
Michael Patrick Pulis, a business operator who told his employee to “seriously, f**k off…” when the worker asked when he would receive money owed to him, has been penalised $21,500.
Judge Grant Riethmuller also penalised Mr Pulis’ company, Pulis Plumbing Pty Ltd, a further $100,000 after a plumber’s labourer, who was 20 years old at the time, was underpaid by $26,882 over just three months.
Judge Riethmuller described the conduct as “outrageous exploitation of a young person”, adding that the behaviour was “such to arouse much emotion” and “nothing short of avarice”.
The worker was underpaid when he was employed by Pulis Plumbing to perform work in the Melbourne, Geelong and Bendigoareas between September and December, 2014.

Media Release, 8 Feb 2018:
A Northern Territory refuge for women and children victims of domestic violence has back-paid 11 employees a total of more than $50,000, after intervention by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Media Release, 6 Feb 2018:
The operator of a remote Northern Territory homestead is facing major penalties after underpaying 17 employees more than $23,000.

Media Release, 24 Jan 2018:
A sushi outlet operator and an accountant have been penalised almost $200,000 for their involvement in an unlawful internship program that exploited young overseas workers.

Media Release, 22 Jan 2018:
A Brisbane labour hire business will face court for allegedly underpaying 10 employees more than $14,000 through an unlawful unpaid work experience program.

Media Release, 17 Jan 2018:
Ten truck drivers who worked for an Adelaide transport company have been back-paid a total of $374,000 following successful legal action by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Media Release, 16 Jan 2018:
The former manager of an Oliver Brown chocolate café outlet on the Gold Coast who was ‘seeing what he could get away with’ when he exploited overseas workers has been penalised $27,200.

Media Release, 12 Jan 2018:
The Fair Work Ombudsman recently assisted workers at four businesses in suburbs south east of Melbourne to recover almost $50,000 in unpaid wages and entitlements.

Media Release, 9 Jan 2018:
A Judge has penalised a repeat-offender Melbourne childcare operator $85,000 for her latest staff underpayments, saying she required a “sharp lesson” to make her appreciate her legal obligations.

Then there is the naked exploitation outlined in the November 2017 UNSW-UTS study, WAGE THEFT IN AUSTRALIA: Findings of the National Temporary Migrant Work Survey:

A substantial proportion of international students, backpackers and other temporary migrants were paid around half the legal minimum wage in Australia…..

Underpayment was widespread across numerous industries but was especially prevalent in food services, and especially severe in fruit and vegetable picking.

Two in five participants (38%) had their lowest paid job in cafes, restaurants and takeaway shops. This was a far greater proportion than for any other type of job….

Large-scale wage theft was prevalent across a range of industries, but the worst paid jobs were in fruit- and vegetable-picking and farm work….

The study confirms that wage theft is endemic among international students, backpackers and other temporary migrants in Australia. For a substantial number of temporary migrants, it is also severe.

Besides wages theft, employers have also developed a penchant for pocketing workers superannuation.

News.com.au, 30 August 2017:

 …it turns out that Australia’s compulsorary superannuation system has a great big hole in it — one worth $17 billion.

That’s how much super employers have dodged paying in the past eight years, according to new figures released by the ATO this week.

The ATO analysis found that employees had likely missed out on $2.85 billion of their super guarantee payments during the 2014/15 financial year, because employers dodged their obligations, with small business owners among the worst offenders.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! cries Michaelia


This was Australian Minister for Employment and Senator for Western Australia, Michaelia Cash in September 2017:


Sounds great, doesn’t it? However, what Ms. Cash is confirming here is that 74,400 of the jobs she is claiming are in fact only part-time jobs and some would be for as little as half a day per week.


July 2016 – 11.963 million
August 2016 – 11.870 million
September 2016 – 11.910 million
October 2016 – 11.952 million
November 2016 – 12.017 million
December 2016 – 12.106 million
January 2017 – 11.844 million
February 2017 – 12.060 million
March 2017 – 12.079 million
April 2017 –  12.147 million
May 2017 – 12.214 million
June 2017 – 12.210 million
July 2017 – 12.213 million
August 2017 – 12.195 million
September 2017 – not known at this time

Comparing the month of August 2016 with the month of August 2017 then the number of additional persons in employment is estimated at 324,900 people of which est. 75,400 individuals were working part-time.

Perhaps the better figure is for a financial year. The number of additional persons in employment at the end of 1 July 2016-30 June 2017 financial year is estimated at 246,900 people of which est. 184,300 individuals were working part-time.

How many of those part-time jobs were Work For The Dole employment or were PaTH jobs is uncertain. Both these government programs are not known for leading to high levels of permanent employment.


There is also the statistical difficulty that any growth in the number of people employed doesn’t necessarily mean an equal number of new jobs was created during the same period. Some job vacancies were created when workers permanently left the workforce, changed positions within a business or changed employer.

Something Ms. Cash would know full well.

So while the Minister can point to an improvement in employment levels, these levels are not as robust as she would have us believe.

Looking at the numbers since August 2013 Tony Abbott’s promised two million new jobs created within a decade is never likely to eventuate.

While on the NSW North Coast the unemployment rate ranges from 5.4% in Richmond-Tweed to 8% in Coffs Harbour-Grafton in July 2017. The Coffs Harbour-Grafton Labour Force Region unemployment rate continuing as the highest rate in New South Wales.

Friday, 21 July 2017

A reminder to rural and regional businesses that there always needs to be a valid reason based on fact for dismissing staff


FAIR WORK COMMISSION
Excerpts, 14 July 20017

[42] In dealing with unfair dismissal claims over the past 20 years a handful of cases remain memorable because of their particular circumstances. In some instances, the case was remarkable because of the manifest absence of valid reason for dismissal, usually accompanied by deplorable procedural deficiencies. In other cases, the audacity of the employee to make complaint about their dismissal was consistent with a history of misconduct that provided unassailable valid reason for which the individual should have been dismissed much earlier. Unfortunately, this case will join the ranks of those elite few which forever remain ignominiously memorable…..

[52] Employees are human beings and not human resources. A machine or item of office equipment might be quickly discarded if it is broken or malfunctioning. However, an employee is entitled to be treated with basic human dignity, and advice of the termination of employment by telephone or other electronic means should be strenuously avoided so as to ensure that the dismissal of an employee is not conducted with the perfunctory dispassion of tossing out a dirty rag……

[59] In summary, this case has involved a very regrettable absence of valid reason for the applicant’s dismissal. Further, it has been highly lamentable to observe the seriously flawed manner in which the employer first determined, and then conveyed the decision to dismiss the applicant. The circumstances of this case provide strong foundation for argument against any lessening of legislative protections for unfair dismissal, a proposition which seems to regularly resurface, and gain a level of publicity that is disconnected with reality.

[60] Regrettably, the dismissal of the applicant was harsh, unjust and unreasonable. Thankfully, the applicant is a person protected from unfair dismissal, and she is entitled to have the Commission provide an appropriate remedy.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Can't live on the wage you bring home but can't get a raise from the boss? Here's the reasons why


In 2016 an est. 3.89 million people living in New South Wales had a personal weekly income of between $0 and $644 per week, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

In Tasmania an est. 1.03 million people had way less than $573 per week.

Between March Quarter 2016 and March Quarter 2017 wages growth remained at record lows.

So this should come as no surprise……

Industrial relations lawyer Josh Bornstein writing in The Sydney Morning Herald, 5 July 2017:

When Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe recently declared a "wages crisis" following a prolonged period of low wages growth, it appears to have caught the federal government on the hop. Quick to respond to crises about border protection, terrorism and rising energy prices, this is one crisis that renders the government mute. There is no plan, no working group, or commissioning of a white paper from the Productivity Commission. Instead, the government has announced a plan to pay up to 10,000 "interns" to work in the retail industry for as little as $4 an hour. This plan will only exacerbate the wages crisis.

Phillip Lowe is not the first prominent mandarin to observe that stagnant wages threaten economic growth. A new consensus has emerged since the Global Financial Crisis that anaemic wages growth and increased income inequality is retarding economies and stoking political volatility in developed economies. Nevertheless, Lowe is the first in Australia to join the chorus. His suggested remedy – that employees need to speak up more to request higher pay – is strikingly naive, inviting the obvious question. What if the boss says "no"?

Lowe's counterpart at the Bank of England, Andy Haldane, has offered a more sophisticated analysis of the wages crisis, focused on the transformation of the labour market. Haldane recently observed that profound changes in workplaces had produced a period of "divide and conquer" that left workers less able to bargain for higher wages. "There is power in numbers. A workforce that is more easily divided than in the past may find itself more easily conquered. In other words, a world of divisible work may reduce workers' wage-bargaining power," he said.

The collapse in bargaining power for workers that Haldane has observed is reflected in the plight of Australian trade unions, which are languishing at their weakest point in their history. Only 14.5 per cent of employees belong to a trade union. In the private sector, that number sits at a shocking 10 per cent and falling. The tipping point passed long ago. Australian trade unions are fighting for their survival. That wage growth and employee share of GDP has hit record lows is no coincidence…..

The explanation for the severity of the collapse of unionisation is far more prosaic. It's our laws. Unions have been seriously weakened by 30 years of constant political and legislative attacks. The last conservative prime minister not to establish a royal commission into trade unions was Billy McMahon (1971-1972). For decades, business lobby groups have permanently and successfully campaigned for legislative change that weakens unions.

In this era, workplace laws have been changed in two key ways. First, the laws have been deregulated to encourage employers to cut wages and de-unionise their workplaces. At the same time, unions have been subjected to complex regulation that restricts their ability to access workplaces, recruit members and to bargain for better wages and conditions. The laws have allowed employers unprecedented ability to cut labour costs, outmanoeuvre employees and their unions while at the same time inveigling unions into a kind of regulatory quicksand…..

Read the full article here.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

A Fair Day's Wages For A Fair Day's Work*: has an employment epoch finally come to an inglorious end?


Looking at the Australian employment market in 2016 and 2017 one has to ask if this country has entered the Era of Exploitation………

ABC News, 1 March 2017:

the Australian economy is currently growing at around 2 per cent per annum. That's about fast enough to keep the unemployment rate steady, but it's not fast enough to create lots of new jobs. To create jobs, it needs to grow at least 2.5 to 3 per cent per annum.

The economy isn't growing fast enough for a whole bunch of reasons, but the big picture is that we haven't been able to transition as smoothly as we would have liked from the mining boom, to an economy being driven by a number of different sectors.

The sectors of the economy that have enjoyed increased activity are healthcare, hospitality, and tourism. These sectors tend to be biased towards hiring part-time workers.

Nine2Three Employment Solutions in Sydney's Sutherland Shire specialises in placing candidates into part-time roles. Managing director, Kathryn MacMillan, say business is booming. Right now, she's placing job seekers into part-time roles including mining, tourism, retail, clerical and accounts-type roles, sales roles and business development.

Ms MacMillan explained to me that she's placing lots of mums re-entering the workforce, and people after just a few days of work a week. Part-time work can also be convenient for students, and for those returning to the workforce after an illness or injury.

You can't ignore, however, the hundreds of thousands of Australians over the past 12 months that have either lost their job, or would dearly like to work more (to help pay the mortgage, utility bills etc.).

We know, for instance, the economy shed 53,000 full-time positions in September last year. Another 44,800 full-time jobs disappeared in January.

It's really quite straight forward. The Australian economy is transitioning, and many workers are getting left behind.

Remember the kids' game, musical chairs? Everyone has a seat to start with. That was the mining boom. The music started playing during the financial crisis, and now that it's stopped, we've noticed quite a few chairs have been taken away. We're now seeing two or three people trying to squeeze onto the same chair in many cases!

Darren Coppin is the chief executive of Esher House. His company spits out all sorts of interest research. He told me recently that this big economic transition has also ignited a bit of a social change.

He explained to me that 30 years ago the man did most of the paid-for work (40 hours a week). Since then millions of women have entered the workforce. During the 1980s and 1990s both men and women were working more, and earning more (excluding the recession).

Recently, however, the economy's been unable to sustain those jobs.

Now, women tend to be working 25 hours a week, while men also work 25 hours a week (in trend terms). So, overall, the household is working more, but because both jobs may not be strictly full-time, the actual combined take-home pay at the end of the day is less.

So yes, you guessed it, overall we're working more, for less pay.

Record low wages growth is also rubbing salt into the wound.

Anecdotally I've met quite a lot of people who are doing their best to make the best of a bad situation.

Many couples with children, for instance, have decided to work nine-day fortnights. That means mum or dad takes one day off each week. That day's devoted to running errands, and, of course, child care... and cooking.

I spoke to a single mum last month who told me she felt quite isolated. She said she spends all of her waking hours working and looking after her child, with no time left over for friends, because the bills keep piling up (child care and rent being the ones that hurt).

While many Australians are working out how to get by, too many are really struggling.

I spoke to a few people last week who told me the decision by the Fair Work Commission to scrap Sunday penalty rate had been a kick in guts.

Mandy Carr, for example, a retail worker on Queensland's Gold Coast, had decided to return to work (post maternity leave) on the Sunday shift so her and her husband could get ahead financially.

She says the decision will cost her $100 each and every week.

There are too many Australians though that are angry... really angry.

They're upset because they'd desperately like to make a go of life. They want a home, and enough money on the side to give their kids opportunities in life. But they're being held back by a job that doesn't offer them enough in terms of hours and/or pay, and the cost of living keeps rising.

There's also the emotional toll that workers face with heightened job insecurity, combined with ever-increasing debt repayments.

The Reserve Bank governor told a Parliamentary Committee last week that the situation households face (having to cut back on spending because of rising costs and low wages) is "sobering".

The recognition of the problem is heartening. At this very moment though, recognising the problem is all we seem to be doing.

Low wages growth is at record breaking level and underemployment is endemic in Australia in this second decade of the 21st Century.

By December 2016 seasonally adjusted wages growth was 1.9 per cent December Quarter 2015 to December Quarter 2016, with growth in the private sector being lower still at 1.8 per cent.

Trend percentages are even more dismal.

In December 2016 the Cost Price Index (CPI) showed rises in the cost of food, non-alcoholic beverages, alcohol, tobacco, clothing, footwear, housing, furnishings, household equipment & services, recreation & culture, education, insurance and financial services – with CPI rises ranging from 1.8 per cent to 5.9 per cent December Quarter 2015 to December Quarter 2016.

According the Australian Bureau of Statistics Labour Force Statistics in  December 2016 there were seasonally adjusted an:

est. 739,600 people who were unemployed and looking for full-time work – an est. 18,100 more individuals than in December 2015;

est. 3,814,200 people who were working part-time but would prefer to be working full-time – an est. 126,600 more individuals than in December 2015; and

est. 212,500 unemployed people who were exclusively looking for part-time work in December 2016 – an fall of est. 1,100 individuals since December 2015.

In November 2016 there were seasonally adjusted an est. 1,099,400 underemployed individuals - usually working less than 35 hours per week for a wage which does not meet economic needs. That represents an underemployment rate of 8.6 per cent.

In January 2017 there were around 129,800 more people working part-time than there were a year ago and around 40,100 fewer people working full-time and, despite an alleged small growth in full-time jobs in December 2016, the trend unemployment rate still stood at 5.7 per cent for the ninth consecutive month.


Affecting the take home pay of more than 700,000 workers, with those who regularly work Sunday shifts being left between $29 and over $80 worse off every week.

Many of these workers are already employed in industry sectors and regions which often allow only limited opportunity for changing employers.

According to the Internet Vacancy Index (based on a count of online job advertisements newly lodged on three main job boards SEEK, CareerOne and Australian JobSearch) in January 2017 job vacancies decreased in the Northern Territory, south west Western Australia, western Victoria and regional New South Wales - with the NSW North Coast showing a twelve month decline of -2.6 per cent and three month moving average of 1,700 job on offer to suitable applicants.



The effect of statistics such as this on individuals, families and communities are amplified across rural and regional Australia where the job market is usually tighter than in metropolitan areas and, I suspect that many of us living in the NSW Northern Rivers region have friends or family members struggling with poverty-level incomes due to unemployment or underemployment.

* The saying A Fair Day's Wages For A Fair Day's Work appears to have entered the public arena in or about 1839.