The ACTU has declared the economy is starting to recover from the COVID-19 crisis as the peak union body pushes its case for a $30-a-week minimum wage increase.
“Green shoots suggest the recovery phase is beginning,” the ACTU told the Fair Work Commission, claiming pay rises would assist with the recovery as they offered an efficient means to promote spending and employment.
Employer groups told the commission that a minimum wage freeze was warranted because “worse is to come”.
In its latest submission to the commission, the ACTU says a below-inflation minimum wage increase would be a “real reduction” and would offer an obstacle to the recovery. “Whilst the situation continues to evolve, there are indications that performance of the economy has been better than expected when measures were first being developed and implemented to respond to the pandemic, and that the recovery is beginning,” the ACTU says.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said national accounts data showing the economy contracting by 0.3 per cent in the March quarter was the “calm before the storm” and the June quarter data would be worse. “The Australian economy is facing a cliff in the June quarter 2020, as the full effect of the COVID-19 social distancing, shutdown of non-essential services and trading restrictions are felt throughout the economy,” the chamber says.
It said the notion that a significant increase in the national minimum wage and award minimum wages would stimulate consumer spending and provide a boost to the economy was “out of touch with the economic reality that we face”.