It’s time for facts, not fear

If you hadn’t noticed, national union heavyweights are attempting to strong-arm the business community in the lead up to next year’s federal election. A disruptive Australian Council of Trade Unions campaign, with strategies that seem to be focused on misinforming the public, is seeking to mark its territory.

Among the current claims is that insecure work is increasing and leading to record inequality. Yet the number of casuals has stayed the same for the past two decades. The unions want casual loadings increased, which means higher pay for generally unskilled labour.

More than 720,000 Australians are unemployed, 1.1 million are underemployed, and youth unemployment tops 20 per cent in some regions. Jobs should not be at risk because businesses cannot afford to pay inflated casual wages. Australia already has one of the highest minimum wages, that has been increasing at a rate greater than inflation.

The ACTU claims the minimum wage and award wages have fallen and working families are no longer protected from poverty. It wants a minimum wage benchmark set at 60 per cent of the median wage. This ACTU wage claim risks harming small businesses which cannot afford the massive wage rises to meet the benchmark, pricing young and vulnerable people out of work.

The ACTU is claiming underpayment in the workforce is growing, and employers are deliberately under-paying workers or not contributing to superannuation. It wants union officials to be able to enter business premises and inspect time and wage records. But employers categorically oppose underpayment, and know it is illegal to underpay staff.

Business SA takes hundreds of calls each month from employers requesting advice on payrates and awards. They want to get it right. Underpayment claims are not increasing. The Fair Work Ombudsman is identifying poor practices and cracking down on unscrupulous employers that are thankfully very much the exception.

The ACTU claims migrant workers undermine pay and job security. It says the temporary work visa scheme is virtually uncapped and has been growing without regard for Australian workers, with overseas workers employed instead of training young Australians.  

It is not easy or cheap for employers to engage temporary skilled workers. There are minimum salary requirements, training benchmarks and sponsorship costs. Those on temporary visas with work rights are usually educated, skilled, experienced, proficient in English and develop the local workforce. Labour market testing requirements are tough.

The ACTU claims businesses are raking in profits and not paying tax. Try telling that to the local café owner who gets up at 5am to serve you coffee on your morning walk, pays staff first and has probably mortgaged the family home for the privilege of running a business and providing work for others.

Next time you hear the ACTU shout, carefully consider the accuracy of its messaging, and how much it is clearly immune to concerns about hurting our small business community.

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