Shorten: I’ll deliver a ‘living wage’
BILL Shorten has suggested he would give new riding instructions to the independent pay umpire as he promises to deliver a "living wage".
In comments that have been welcomed by unions but which have alarmed employer groups, the Labor leader flagged changes to the Fair Work Act to push up the minimum wage above its current rate of $18.93 an hour.
"We want to help the Fair Work Commission with the guidelines they use to set the minimum wage and we want to take into account all factors," Mr Shorten said.
"We don't want adults in Australia working full time trying to survive on $18.93 per hour before tax."
The Opposition Leader is yet to spell out how his plan to deliver a "living wage" will work and he has not explained how he would force the independent Fair Work Commission to increase pay for the poorest workers.
Under laws introduced by the former Labor government, the independent body must weigh a number of factors when setting the minimum wage.
These include the impact on the economy and employment of movements in wages - factors that have been used by businesses to argue for a lid on pay rises.
Unions and the Greens have called for the minimum wage to be set at 60 per cent of average wages.
A spokesman for ACTU boss Sally McManus welcomed changes to the way the minimum wage was set.
"The current system for setting the minimum wage isn't working," he said.
"We need to change the criteria used by the Commission in setting the minimum wage so that it considers the needs of workers as its highest priority and sets a wage which provides for a comfortable life and lifts all workers out of poverty - rather than consigning a portion of workers to living in poverty as the result of trying to balance a competing list of considerations."
But Australian Industry Group chief Innes Willox said Labor's plans could drive up unemployment.
"There is no point in having an independent tribunal to determine wages and working conditions if Parliament is going to dictate what decisions the tribunal must make or is going to impose unbalanced criteria to ensure that the tribunal's decisions favour one party over another," he said.
"Also, awarding an excessive and unsustainable minimum wage increase will not just harm businesses - it is sure way to destroy jobs."