The Fair Work Commission is up to its old tricks. Using dodgy and inappropriate evidentiary techniques, it has decided to award adult rates of pay to 20 year olds under the Retail Industry Award, as long as they have had six months’ service with the employer.
If you bother to read the decision, you will just weep. The union finds a small number of young people and they tell the left-leaning panel about how they are really, really productive and as productive as 21 year olds. It turns out they have been employed under agreements, rather than the award, but what the heck.
Rather than take the high road and argue on principle (there is nothing to stop employers paying more, but junior rates in the awards protect the most vulnerable workers), they serve up a number of employers who don’t really know what it is all about and talk about removing junior rates of pay for younger employees (which is the aim of the union, by the way).
The pompous language used in the decision is just appalling. These three amigos would not have a clue. And here’s the thing. They think that the decision has to be phased in, which is completely inconsistent with the view that their decision would not affect employers or the job prospects of workers.
And then there is this amazing instruction to the union: you draft the changes to the award. What? Surely, these members of the FWC are paid enough to do the drafting themselves and what is the propriety of subcontracting the drafting of the changes to the award to the trade union?
The only person who has made any sense in the context of a number of newspaper stories about rapidly rising youth unemployment, including in The Age, is Tony Nicholson, executive director of the Brotherhood of St Laurence, who declared that the decision of the FWC was “not helpful”. (He wants a youth wages scheme.)
He went on to say: “Essentially what the data shows us is we in Australia are hurtling toward a social disaster and if nothing changes, if we do nothing, we’re going to have unemployment as high as 40 per cent in some parts of the country”.
Here’s the story:
Unions will push to increase the wages of young workers in a range of industries after a landmark decision awarding 20-year-old retail workers the same pay as 21-year-olds.
ACTU secretary Dave Oliver yesterday welcomed a Fair Work Commission ruling on Friday that 20-year-olds should receive the full adult rate of pay instead of the 90 per cent currently offered.
The changes, to be brought in over two years, amount to an extra $1.80 an hour for part-time workers who have worked for a business for at least six months.
Mr Oliver dismissed complaints the increase would “crush” small business and increase youth unemployment. Junior rates apply in 72 of the 122 modern awards, including hospitality, construction, manufacturing, and health care. “An 18-year-old is recognised as an adult under the law,” he said.
“Many are independent and have the rent and expenses of an adult, some have families, and yet they are paid less. An 18-year-old can go to war and fight for their country but if they enter the workforce they get 30 per cent less than their colleagues.”
While it was “a long road ahead”, unions would continue to fight for 18-year-olds to receive the adult wage. “Unions will be looking closely at this decision by the Fair Work Commission and how it will impact future claims as we continue to campaign for fair pay at adult rates for young workers,” he said. “We will be discussing the implications because the current system is out of date. It’s outdated policy that a young person is working side by side doing the same job in a workplace but getting paid less than the person next to them who is older.
“Young workers are important contributors to thousands of workplaces and anyone who argues that paying them a fair wage will cost them their jobs is underselling their worth.”