The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is pushing for a $30 increase to the country’s minimum wage, arguing that ‘new evidence’ shows that the country’s lowest paid are slipping ‘further behind the rest of the workforce’.

In its final submission to the Fair Work Commission, the ACTU is seeking to increase the National Minimum Wage to $636.40 per week.

This would mean a 79c/hour increase from $15.96 per hour to $16.75 per hour. For other Award-reliant workers above the benchmark tradesperson’s rate, unions will seek a 4.2% pay increase.

ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver said the time had come to stop the decline in the relative earnings of low-paid workers. He said that since 2000, the National Minimum Wage had fallen from 50% of average weekly full-time earnings to 43.4%.

Mr Oliver said the performance of Australia’s economy meant the claim of $30 a week for the National Minimum Wage was affordable and reasonable.

“Last year’s disappointing decision by the Fair Work Commission pushed us further towards the creation of an American-style class of working poor in Australia,” Mr Oliver said.

“Any further decline in the relative living standards of low-paid workers will put in jeopardy the concept of a fair safety net of minimum wages for people whose work is crucial to Australia’s economy.

“With the rise of insecure forms of work in Australia – which see millions of workers in jobs with unpredictable working hours and no access to sick leave or annual leave – safeguards like a decent minimum wage are more important than ever.