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Bill Shorten’s promise of a living wage is both realistic and necessary. But it’s not enough

In a new series of articles in The Conversation on wages, industrial relations, Labor and the union movement, Andreas Ortmann (7.5.19) examines Labor’s proposal to have the Fair Work Commission award a so-called “living wage” instead of a minimum wage.

‘If elected, Labor has promised to ask the Fair Work Commission to substantially increase the minimum wage, at present pegged at A$18.93 per hour or $719.20 per week.

‘It says the intervention is justified because under current rules, the commission is required to set a minimum that is a bare safety net, rather than a minimum that someone could use to live properly. This was a change introduced by the Howard government.

‘Labor’s change will take place “over time,” taking into account the capacity of businesses to pay, and the potential effects on employment, inflation and the broader economy.

‘It will only apply to the minimum wage, not to other award wages.

‘… To work, it needs trade unions respected and taken into the tent as representatives of workers. Bill Shorten is in a good position to do it.’

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