Minimum wage pay rise not much help for struggling workers

Cleaning supervisor Nathan Woods says the minimum wage increase isn't substantial enough to make a difference. Photo Christopher Chan / The Observer
Cleaning supervisor Nathan Woods says the minimum wage increase isn't substantial enough to make a difference. Photo Christopher Chan / The Observer Christopher Chan

FOR local Stockland cleaner Nathan Woods, the minimum wage increase will have next to no benefit to his circumstances.

The cleaning supervisor for Spotless, who has worked as a cleaner in Gladstone since 2003, said the minimum wage was still pretty bad, and he was forced to work two jobs, six days a week, to make ends meet.

"It's pretty tough when half your weekly wage is going on rent," he said.

"$620 a week isn't much and the average rent around here is at least $300, so already we're over that housing stress limit (more than one third of weekly income spent on rent)," Mr Woods said.

"You've still got to come up with phone bills, power bills, run a car; it doesn't leave much to feed yourself with."

Mr Woods described the rise as a slap in the face, with about 40 cents per hour more not making much of a difference to him.

"It's not going to make any sort of major difference to me," he said.

"I'm working six days a week now; I've got hardly any social life because on my day off I'm doing everything else that gets ignored all week when I'm working."

Mr Woods has his children at weekends, which meant he had to rent somewhere larger. "Most people are forced to find someone to share a house with but it's tough because I've got to have room for my kids too," he said.

Mr Woods said workers were not being unreasonable in their demands for a slightly bigger increase than was granted.

"We really need at least a $50 per week increase to make any difference. It'd still only put most of us at about $17 or $18 per hour but it might make things a bit more viable," he said. "it's people's health that ends up suffering because food gets pushed down the list of priorities."

Pay rise won't help strugglers: United Voice

UNITED Voice Australia local spokeswoman Shelly Holzheimer said the increase to the national minimum wage was essentially ineffective.

The wage increase awarded earlier this month amounted to about a 41 cents an hour increase to workers currently on the minimum wage.

The 2.6% increase was not enough to help those struggling with the cost of living on tight weekly remuneration.

"Of course any wage increase is welcome, but we are disappointed that the Fair Work Commission only increased the weekly minimum wage by half of what unions recommended."

Coupled with the increasing electricity costs, and the ever-increasing cost of living, and the situation is becoming closer to untenable for many workers on the bottom of the national pay scale.

"$622.20 is not a liveable wage," Ms Holzheimer said.

In the decision handed down by the Fair Work Commission, it found that the economic outlook for the country remained relatively strong, yet still only managed a miniscule raise in the pay rate.

"The outlook for the Australian economy remains favourable, with solid growth, relatively low unemployment and continuing moderate inflation anticipated in the near future," the Fair Work Commission decision said.

The decision also found that the economic outlook remained favourable, but their decision to award such a low increase has left United Voice members bitterly disappointed.

"For many of our members, this award review is their only opportunity to get a wage increase," Ms Holzheimer said.

"It's disappointing that once again the minimum wage panel did not go far enough."


National minimum wage and modern awards increased by 2.6%

Those not covered by an award, minimum wage increased from $606.40 per week to $622.20 per week

Breaks down to an increase from $15.96 per hour for a full-time minimum wage to $16.37 per hour

Topics:  gladstone minimum wage

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