The Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA (CCI) is disappointed that the Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission (WAIRC) has today handed down an $18 per week increase to the state minimum wage or 2.5 per cent, payable from 1 July 2018.

CCI Chief Executive Officer Chris Rodwell said CCI strongly represented our Members at the State Wage Case to argue for an affordable 1.2 per cent increase for workers that are employed by small businesses under the State industrial relations system.

“Today’s increase means the cumulative increase to state minimum wages since 2012 has been 18.2 per cent – more than double CPI (7.3%),” Mr Rodwell said.

“This is on top of WA’s Average Ordinary Time Weekly Earnings already being the highest of all states, exceeding the national average by 11 per cent and that of the next highest state, New South Wales, by 10 per cent.

“CCI supports responsible and sustainable wage growth through the State Minimum Wage and award minimum wages but it is important to recognise that more than half of small businesses have an annual turnover of less than $200,000.”

Although confidence is improving, WA’s domestic economy remains in transition, slowed down by falling business investment and high levels of unemployment and youth unemployment, while WA has the lowest inflation rate of all the states for the 10th quarter in a row.

“CCI believes caution and restraint in minimum wage setting is particularly important for WA at this time to ensure that employment opportunities aren’t discouraged in any way,” Mr Rodwell said.

“It is too simplistic to say that small businesses can increase prices to cover costs. That is not always a viable option – the competitive market they operate within often determines pricing, not them.

“Like any individual, small businesses can only pay for what they can afford – be that the level of inventory they carry, the range of stock on their shelves and the staff they employ. These come on top of normal operating costs such as rent, insurances, utilities and repairs.

“Small business can’t afford increased cost pressures at a time when many face a challenging year ahead as the economy attempts to recover.

“CCI respects the independence of the WAIRC, and while the decision is greater than CCI had advocated, we believe that the WAIRC strongly considered CCI’s arguments made on behalf of our members.”