The minimum wage

The minimum wage applies to all workers not covered by an industry award or workplace agreement. Every year, unions fight to see this wage increased to keep step with inflation and real wage growth in other sectors. The minimum wage is a vital part of ensuring that those in low-paid work are served the justice and dignity of a living wage.

The minimum wage is $656.90 per week or $17.29 per hour – this is less than half of Australia’s average weekly earnings (43.4%, in fact). Almost two-thirds of workers reliant on the minimum wage are women

In 2009, the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) highlighted that:

“Characteristics associated with low-paid jobs are little or no reward for training and skill, truncated career and pay structures, job insecurity, erratic or excessive time demands, unsocial hours, the absence of well-developed on-the-job training, a lack of recognition of prior learning, multiple jobs, a lack of employer investment in training and/or job demands that preclude easy participation in training. These issues are compounded for casual workers”

Casual work

One quarter of all female employees are casual. Contrary to the claims of business owners, insecure work does not equip people to better participate fully in work and society. It does not come with the many positive benefits of permanent secure work, nor does not provide an opportunity to save money, to obtain new skills and experience or to move forward in a career.  It in fact has negative impacts on people’s lives and traps them in a continuing roundabout of stress, uncertainty and low wages.

Employment insecurity now pervades many workplaces and industry sectors especially in the service sector but also in areas such as manufacturing and warehousing. The ACTU estimates that around 40% of jobs are insecure, comprising of casual and fixed term contracts. Workers make accommodations to the reality of what they can get to earn a basic living but that doesn’t mean it is an easy or desirable set of choices.

What can you do?

Here are 5 actions you can take to fight against the rise of insecure work and a fair minimum wage: 

  1. Join the We Are Union Women’s Network
  2. Sign up for our WRAW (Women’s Rights at Work) Festival
  3. Take the Women’s rights and safety dialogue for action survey
  4. Volunteer with the We Are Union federal election campaign
  5. Talk your boss/union delegate about the rights of casual and contract workers at your workplace