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Australian Business Backs Union Calls for More Pay Before Summit

·1 min read

(Bloomberg) --

The head of Australia’s main business lobby backed union demands for higher wages ahead of a major jobs summit.

The nation’s enterprise bargaining system needs to be overhauled to ensure workers are paid more, Business Council of Australia Chief Executive Officer Jennifer Westacott said Sunday. She spoke in a joint interview with Sally McManus, the secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, on ABC Television’s Insiders program.

“Sally and I are absolutely on a unity ticket that we want people to be paid more and we want those wage increases to be sustained,” Westacott said. “When done well, when you look at the data and averages on wages, people on enterprise agreements get substantially more money.”

Australia’s unemployment dropped to a 48-year low of 3.4% in July, partially because of a lower participation rate following floods on the East Coast and a renewed Covid outbreak. Yet that has so far failed to drive a significant jump in renumeration, with the wage price index growing just 2.6%, less than half the pace of inflation.

The government will host a Jobs and Skills Summit in Canberra on Thursday and Friday, which will also discuss the gender pay gap and increased migration. But industrial relations reforms and salaries are likely to take center stage.

“Workers’ bargaining power has been smashed,” McManus said. “We have not seen real wage-pay increases for 10 whole years now. There’s been plenty of time for employers to give people pay increases but they’ve not, and it’s not fair to have whole sections of the economy -- more than half -- totally locked out of collective bargaining.”

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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