Australia’s lowest-paid workers will receive a bigger pay rise than last year after the industrial umpire decided on an $18.80-a-week wage increase.
The Fair Work Commission revealed on Wednesday the national minimum wage will rise 2.5 per cent to $772.60 per week or $20.33 an hour.
Workers covered under aviation, fitness, tourism and certain retail sector awards will have their pay rise delayed until 1 November.
General retail award workers will have to wait until 1 September for a wage bump.
The remainder of the 2.3 million people on award rates or the national minimum wage will see an increase from 1 July.
Commission president Iain Ross said while the economic recovery was well underway, downside risks remained.
“In particular, the risks of domestic outbreaks and of ongoing disruptions to other major economies. The pace of the vaccine rollout also remains a risk,” he said.
The expert panel also took into account the superannuation guarantee rising half a percentage point to 10 per cent from the start of next financial year.
“But we have not applied a direct quantifiable discount to the minimum wage increase,” Justice Ross said.
Unions pushed for a 3.5 per cent increase, which would have seen minimum wage workers receive an extra $26 a week.
Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus said it was disappointing retail workers would receive a delayed increase.
Ms McManus said the 2.5 per cent increase for 25 per cent of the workforce was due to unions fighting for it.
“For workers on the minimum wage it’s not going to be enough to keep up with the cost of living,” she said.
“There’s no justification for delaying increases for essential retail workers when companies have posted record profits.”
The national minimum wage increased by 1.75 per cent to $753.80 a week, or $19.84 an hour, after last year’s review but the rise was delayed at least three months for most workers.
The Morrison government warned against a major increase, arguing it could dampen employment in small business during the coronavirus pandemic.
Labor’s industrial relations spokesman Tony Burke said the pay rise was hard fought.
“It may well have been higher, were it not for the fact Australia’s government, the Morrison government, refused to lift a finger in arguing for higher rates of pay,” he told reporters in Canberra.
Major employer groups urged the commission to limit its increase to 1.1 per cent, or $8.29 a week.
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Jenny Lambert said the commission’s decision was a bitter pill to swallow for around 230,000 small businesses.
“Australians who have managed to battle on through, keep their business afloat and keep people in work now face a highly risky hike in wages – always their biggest cost,” she said.
Ms Lambert said the Victorian lockdown showed how unpredictable conditions for businesses remained, while the international border closure was hurting tourism, education and agriculture.
“That’s why a 2.5 per cent increase to award wages now is premature and irresponsible.”