Demands by the ACTU, WACOSS and Unions WA for a 4 per cent increase to minimum and award rates of pay would deliver a punishing blow to WA businesses, right at a time when their survival is in the balance. For some small businesses it would be the final straw, leaving them no option but to go out of business altogether.
The Fair Work Commission and the WA Industrial Relations Commission are currently considering changes to minimum and award rates of pay in the Federal and State IR systems. The national review applies to the majority of private businesses, whereas the State Wage Case applies to some smaller businesses including sole traders, partnerships and some not-for-profit organisations.
Calls for a 4 per cent increase in minimum and award rates of pay are out of step with reality, coming amidst a global crisis when record numbers of people are losing their jobs, earnings have taken a hit and conditions have never been tougher.
Wages data shows that since March 14, total wages in WA have fallen by 7 per cent, the largest fall in any state or territory.
Businesses have been tightly constrained in their activity by ongoing virus containment measures. The unprecedented level of uncertainty is pressing down on confidence and the community already faces the loss of 20 million working hours and the biggest contraction of national output since the Great Depression.
Prior to COVID-19, CCIWA warned that the WA economy was treading water. In the midst of COVID-19 devastation, our economy will instead be swimming against the riptide currents of recession. As the state’s peak business body, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA has reinforced the need to focus on preserving jobs in a further submission to the WAIRC.
Calls for higher pay in these conditions are not constructive to the Prime Minister’s efforts to foster cooperation on longstanding industrial issues.
This is not a moment in which to demand more from the very small businesses who through their own hard work and dedication have created the opportunity for so many West Australians to find employment. Rather this is a moment when all members of society — business, government, unions and individuals — must come together and act in our mutual best interests and the interests of the broader community. If we can do that then more businesses and their workers will survive the crisis, providing a platform upon which current and future generations of Western Australians can prosper.