Calls on the federal Government to undermine the minimum wage are just one element of a grave attack on the pay and conditions of Australians, United Voice member Victor Barrientos has warned.
Victor, a cleaner at Melbourne Airport since 2001 said many of his fellow employees already were working through weekends to try to make ends meet. This cost them time with their families, and even this weekend pay was under attack now.
“It’s very hard. Everything is going up and we are earning less at the moment. I am lucky I have a second job as a school cleaner. It would be very much harder without that,” said Victor.
“Some of my co-workers, they have to come into work at the weekend to make up the money they have lost. They have to sacrifice the weekend. The weekend is the time you enjoy the family growing together. That’s so important to relax and be with the family, but in this case they have no time with their families.”
The federal government has already introduced a Bill enabling weekend and night pay to be traded away for no gain and has also ordered an inquiry into weekend pay.
Last week the hand-picked Commission of Audit, comprising figures from big business and the Liberal Party, called for massive cuts to the minimum wage and social infrastructure such as pensions and Medicare. It wants to drive down the minimum wage to historically low levels.
Victor, pictured above at right, joined ACTU president Ged Kearney and fellow United Voice member Youssef Sursock in releasing a report showing that a call to reduce the minimum wage to 44 per cent of average earnings would reduce it to one of the lowest levels in the OECD. This would be a reversal of history since Australia’s minimum wage has traditionally been among the highest in the OECD.
Youssef said that cutting the minimum wage and overtime rates would have a terrible effect on people such as his family. Already he could not afford the rises in the cost of living.
Ged said that reducing the minimum wage would do nothing to ease youth unemployment. If the government was serious about dealing with youth unemployment, it would invest in training and support the manufacturing industry.
She said the Commission of Audit offered a “glimpse behind the curtains” of the Australia the Abbott Government would like to see.