PIAA, AMWU denounce minimum raise

The Printing Industries Association of Australia (PIAA) is opposing the Fair Work Commission’s decision to raise the minimum wage, with the industry body saying the 3.5 per cent increase is nearly double what it and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has recommended.

Neither the union or the PIAA are satisfied with the raise which grants workers an extra $24.30 a week, with the two bodies juxtaposing on whether wage growth should result from productivity. Employers had called for $13 more each week whereas the unions had argued for a $50 rise.

The ruling will also include an increase to all modern award minimum wages by 3.5 per cent.

Andrew Macaulay, CEO of the PIAA says, "It is appalling. Iain Ross (Fair Work Commission president) is disconnected with commercial realities.

“Just as business is starting to find its feet employers are ordered to provide a significant increase in wages. This will very likely have an impact on employment.

"It will have a knock on effect, the unions will now start asking for more for print workers. They play the game, they say the print awards now have to rise by a similar amount, it is deliberate."

Lorraine Cassin, National Print Secretary at the AMWU says, “The 3.5 per cent increase to the minimum wage and award wages is less than half of what the union movement was seeking, and even with this wage many workers will still not see a living wage.

“Let’s be realistic – no full-time worker should live in poverty. Even with this increase tens of thousands of full time workers are struggling to survive.

Paul Mitchell, workplace relations manager at the PIAA says, “We are concerned about the increase. The key issue is not wage growth in line with inflation or the cost of living. It should be in line with productivity, which has plateaued in Australia in the last few years. We think wages should not be increasing until we see a rise in productivity.

“For our members and the printing industry, it will impact some of the members but not all. Many pay above the minimum and can absorb costs of wage increases. For some, they will have to make wage adjustments. It is just a matter of making sure our members are aware of the wage increase and having them be in line with it.

Cassin says, “Productivity and profits are up but wage growth has stagnated. It is the lowest it has ever been in Australia. You only have to see the huge increase in company profits to know that workers deserve a fair share.

“For the PIAA to say that any wage increase should have been linked to productivity ignores the years of productivity gains and profit increases without any wage increases. This increase only starts to catch up to where we should be.”

The Graphic Arts, Printing and Publishing (GAPP) Award is also under its four yearly review, with the AMWU pushing for changes to set wages and classifications. While the PIAA was erring on the side of caution in response to the union’s recommendations, the Australian Industry Group resisted them, saying the competencies under the award should not be disturbed.

The PIAA says, "The prevailing economic circumstances for businesses make it very hard to employ people and provide wage growth unless it is linked to productivity. With high taxes, high energy costs and now higher labour costs, doing business in Australia has never been harder.

“We will examine over the coming weeks the impact on this rise on our industry, but already we know it is going to be tough for some businesses to cope with, especially small businesses and particularly those in regional and rural Australia."

The minimum wage raise will come into effect on July 1.

Mitchell says, “If businesses in print and packaging have any concerns, they can contact us or the Fair Work Commision ombudsman.”

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