The fight over award wages begins today

THE political stage is being set for a far-reaching fight over award wages across all industries, with the Federal Government pushing for wages to be re-aligned to reflect the country's economic conditions.

A four-year review of award wages began officially today, with the first hearing of the review by the Fair Work Commission.

Submissions from across Australian society have been sent in, with unions and business groups largely at loggerheads over whether wages should be increased or cut.

While the Abbott Government's submission has not explicitly supported wage cuts, it argues for the commission to consider the "softening economic and labour market" in its decision.

"In particular, the Commission should consider the impact of employment costs on employers' decision to hire workers over the next four years," it reads.

The government's submission has also argued the commission should ensure awards do not go "beyond what was envisaged by the legislature", and to carefully work through every award wage on its books.

Business groups, including the Australian Hotels Association, have again called for a wider review of penalty rates, particularly among retail and hospitality workers.

Unions have instead argued for better penalty rates for workers and more certainty in awards for casual and part-time employees.

The hearing follows Prime Minister Tony Abbott last week hitting out at "extraordinary" generous benefits for SPC Ardmona workers, a reason he gave for not giving the company $25 million to continue to operate in regional Victoria.

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