Skip navigation

Tag Archives: Fair Work Australia

June 1, 2012 – 2:48PM

Australia's lowest paid workers will now receive $606.40 each week.Australia’s lowest paid workers will now receive $606.40 each week. Photo: Stuart Quinn

The national minimum wage for Australia’s 1.4 million lowest paid workers should be raised by $17.10 a week, Fair Work Australia has said.

At its national annual wage review this morning the panel said this was a “moderate” rise of 2.9 per cent.

It will take the wages of the lowest paid workers from $589.30 to $606.40 each week.

And the panel said that the carbon tax compensation should not mean low paid workers should get less.

It is the first minimum wage decision handed down by Fair Work Australia since Justice Iain Ross was appointed to head the tribunal in March.

Justice Ross warned that the outlook for growth in the Australian economy was “uneven”.

But he said it appeared Australian workers were adapting well to a changing economy.

“The available evidence suggests that Australians are [adapting] quite well to the changes,” Justice Ross said.

The ACTU had asked Fair Work to push up minimum wages by $26 a week, while employer body the Australian Industry Group said it should be around $14. The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry had said the rise should be restricted to $9.40 a week.

Some employer groups had also argued the wage rise should be reduced because of the compensation being offered as part of the government’s carbon tax package.

The full bench of Fair Work said it had not been convinced by this argument.

“We conclude that we should not provide any additional assistance to compensate for the anticipated price effects associated with the introduction of a price on carbon,” the panel said in a summary of the decision issued this morning.

“Compensation has already been provided through tax cuts and transfer payments and further compensation by minimum wage adjustments would amount to ‘double dipping’,” the statement said.

ACTU secretary Dave Oliver said the modest pay increase was extremely disappointing.

”What this decision will do is entrench the growing inequality that we have in this country now between real average wage earnings and those that rely on the minimum rate,” he told reporters in Melbourne.

”We’re concerned that gap is going to continue to grow and could well lead to an underclass and a working poor in this country.”

However, Australian Retailers Association (ARA) executive director Russell Zimmerman said the increase was a further blow to a retail sector already struggling with low consumer confidence, taxes and regulatory burdens.

Mr Black said the decision would lead to further job losses in retail.

”The reality is the sector as a whole has not posted any significant growth for almost two years, with overall year-on-year figures consistently below inflation levels.”

Prime Minister Julia Gillard welcomed the decision decision to increase the minimum wage, saying it complements other government initiatives to help Australia’s lowest paid workers.

Ms Gillard said the government wants ”to see low paid workers doing better” and has already put in place other measures to help those doing it tough.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott also welcomed the wage rise, particularly in the context of the carbon tax, which will be introduced on July 1.

“I certainly don’t begrudge people a pay rise,” he told reporters in Melbourne. “Lets face it they’re about to be hit with the carbon tax.”

with Judith Ireland, AAP

Read more:

I agree with Dave Oliver, the issue is compliance with the existing rules for union internal regulation. And I agree with Michelle, the ALP needs to apply tougher tests in its preselections.


Michelle Grattan,

May 6, 2012 Opinion

DO OTHER people feel that seeing one more interview with anyone associated with the Health Services Union might be enough to invite an attack on the television set?

The byzantine politics and rorting in this extraordinary outfit are beyond ordinary comprehension, and nothing comes to a conclusion. Everything about it seems big – its officials’ remuneration (president Michael Williamson is still getting his $350,000 annual salary while he’s stood aside), the amounts allegedly siphoned off for personal gain. Not big are the wages of many of the unfortunate members.

How those leading one union could have misbehaved so blatantly, on such a scale, for so long, beggars belief.

As does the stupidity. Williamson, already in all sorts of trouble, added to it by allegedly trying to get documents away in a bag to evade last week’s police raid.

When the Gillard government’s history is written the HSU connection will be a dark chapter, though it all started long before. If it is a wonder that Craig Thomson, former national secretary, was originally endorsed, it is extraordinary he was re-endorsed for the 2010 poll.

By then people knew he was a time bomb. Advertisement: Story continues below The HSU story is full of ”if onlys” for Labor. If only Thomson had been booted out by the preselectors. If only Gillard had robustly condemned the union’s nefarious behaviour early. If only she’d dispatched Thomson to the crossbenchers long before last weekend.

The political moral is that if not dealt with quickly, scandals can cartwheel out of control and do immense damage to a government. In the Thomson affair, the hung parliament clouded judgments (but it wasn’t hung when he was reselected). Labor did not want to cede any points to Tony Abbott. Nor did it want to do the slightest thing to provoke Thomson, presumably fearing he might create a byelection or be disgruntled as an independent – though he had no better job to go to and would always be likely to support Labor from the crossbenches, as he has now promised to do.

While the investigations grind on, hopefully eventually bringing to justice those who’ve taken down ordinary workers, action is needed to ensure greater protections against rogue union officials.

The ACTU, fearing guilt by association, has already suspended the HSU. Dave Oliver, incoming ACTU secretary, said last week there were significant regulations in place governing unions and employer organisations: the issue was compliance.

Workplace Minister Bill Shorten has suggested toughening penalties and improving transparency. Abbott has announced the Coalition would amend the law so officials of registered organisations ”have to play by the same rules as companies and their directors” who, if found guilty of the sort of offences being talked about, could face personal fines of up to $200,000 and prison.

Things should be kept in perspective – most union officials behave honestly (and are not paid mega salaries). But it is important for signals to be given to those responsible for running unions and the people they serve that any corruption that’s found will be rooted out. This would seem to require both improving governance and strengthening penalties. In this effort, Julia Gillard should get on the front foot, not find reasons to delay.

The reforms ought to be done before the election.

Read more:

May 3, 2012 – 5:11PM

The NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell, says his government will seek to pass urgent legislation to ensure an administrator can be appointed to the NSW branch of the Health Services Union after doubts were raised about the Federal Court’s jurisdiction to make orders relating to a state union.

But the Federal Minister for Employment and Workplaces Relations, Bill Shorten, said the proposed legislation could prolong the factional dispute plaguing the HSU East branch, which is haemorrhaging hundreds of members a day.

As the state and federal government argued today over how to handle the scandal-plagued union, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions announced it would forward a report from Fair Work Australia into financial impropriety in the HSU’s national office to police.

Mr Shorten has asked the Federal Court to appoint an administrator to take over the day-to-day functions of the HSU East and to declare all offices vacant.

He said he has received legal advice that the offices of the NSW Union would be similarly vacated.

However, Federal Court judge Geoffrey Flick questioned the jurisdiction of the court to take action regarding a NSW organisation.

During a hearing this morning Justice Flick said a federal minister had not made such an application “in 100 years”.

Under the leadership of the HSU acting national president, Chris Brown, six branches of the HSU have also applied for an administrator to be appointed to the HSU East branch.

The court heard the jurisdictional issue could be resolved by the minister intervening in this application, rather than initiating his own.

Mark Irving, for Mr Brown, said the branch had ceased to function effectively, evidenced by the mass resignations and harassment and intimidation of members and the disruption of meetings.

Shortly after the hearing was adjourned, Mr O’Farrell told the NSW Parliament he did not want a “legal technicality to stop the appointment of an administration to a union that so desperately and badly needs one”.

In question time, Mr O’Farrell said the government would introduce urgent legislation to allow “an administrator proposed by the NSW government under NSW law to a NSW-registered union”.

The NSW Finance Minister, Greg Pearce, criticised Mr Shorten for not consulting him before “significantly intrud[ing] into the NSW industrial relations jurisdiction”.

In response, Mr Shorten said he welcomed Mr O’Farrell’s “belated support” for an administrator but stood by his decision to launch action in the Federal Court.

Justice Flick ordered the parties enter into mediation. If an agreement on an administration scheme is not reached, he will preside over a three-week hearing beginning on June 5.

He said the dispute should be heard as quickly as possible, given the damage being done to the union.

Earlier, the acting national secretary of the HSU, Chris Brown, said the branches had told the court that the East branch, covering NSW and parts of Victoria, was “dysfunctional”.

Outside the court, Mr Brown said if the application failed, he feared the other branches would withdraw from the HSU, which would spell the end of the union.

“If the application doesn’t work there will be so much reputational damage that it’s probably impossible to recover.

“If this fails, we’re probably pretty close to saying game over.”

An administrator would run the union from day to day in matters including finances. All elected positions would be declared vacant.

Justice Flick is also hearing a legal challenge by the National Secretary of the HSU, Kathy Jackson, to the voting entitlements of salaried members of HSU East.

She alleges up to 20 of the 70 members of the HSU East branch are not entitled to vote at union council meetings.

Justice Flick said he feared that hearing could become futile if the HSU East branch was placed into administration.

He said he was inclined to defer Ms Jackson’s case until the question of administration was heard.

Outside the court, Ms Jackson said she would not enter mediation with Mr Brown, despite the court order.

Read more: