Electrical Trades Union in ‘robust’ wage growth push

  • Published January 30, 2023

The Australian, 25 January 2023

The Electrical Trades Union has committed to pursuing annual pay rises of at least 5 per cent in negotiations with employers this year, as union leaders said the 32-year high inflation rate of 7.8 per cent showed workers remained deep in a cost-of-living crisis.

ETU acting national secretary Michael Wright said the union’s members were having to deal with a “toxic combination of strong inflation and a decade of wage stagnation”. “So we will keep pushing for robust wage growth above the historic norm to lift incomes and improve livelihoods,” he said.

“In terms of enterprise bargaining, 3 per cent would have been probably the average sort of result. Four per cent would have been above average and five and up would have been good. We’re seeking good outcomes.”

Mr Wright said while he would “never be an apologist for employers”, it was true that they were facing higher construction costs. He said Australia also needed to “attack the scourge of labour hire if it wants to restore decent wage growth”.

Australian Workers Union national secretary Daniel Walton said “we always fight for members’ pay to keep pace with the cost of living”.

“I know there are parties who want to create panic about rising wages,” he said. “The fact is it wasn‘t rising wages that gave us this inflation and it’s not fair or necessary to ask the average working person to shoulder the burden of responding via effective pay cuts.”

Health Services Union national president Gerard Hayes said “the soaring cost of living is crumbling the aged-care workforce”.

“Many who want to stay and care for the elderly simply can’t afford to do so,” he said. “These inflation numbers show why the government must accelerate the delivery of a full 25 per cent wage rise. If it doesn’t we simply won’t have an aged care workforce in the near future.”

The Albanese government has proposed a 15 per cent pay rise for aged care workers be funded in two stages over 18 months, but unions want the entire wage increase paid as soon as possible.

The ACTU said on Wednesday that while the first round of Labor’s industrial relations changes would help drive wage growth “more action is needed”, and attacked the RBA’s “myopic approach to inflation control”.

ACTU president Michele O’Neil said “the cost-of-living crisis is far from over for Australian workers”. “Wage growth is less than half the rate of inflation and essential items continue to lead price increases,” she said.

“Action to get wages moving is years overdue, and after a decade of wage suppression … cannot come soon enough.

“The changes to bargaining passed last year will make a difference for millions of workers when they come into effect in June.”