By Eryk Bagshaw
Thousands of employees in the retail, media, mining, transport and rental industries will struggle to keep up with the cost of living after signing wage rise agreements that are set to fall below inflation in the next two years.
New figures from the Department of Jobs and Small Business show that employers are signing half as many agreements with employees as three years ago, while those that are being negotiated are netting an average wage increase of just 2.2 per cent, barely above the rising cost of a bag of groceries.
According to figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, wage growth has been stuck at historically depressed levels, but the latest figures from the department show the pinch is set to continue, particularly in the private sector, where newly approved agreements hit a 25 year low of 2.4 per cent.
The figures are significantly below the 3.5 per cent wage increase negotiated between employers and workers in September 2014 and will fall behind the forecasts in the federal government’s mid-year economic update.
The government has predicted inflation will rise from 1.9 per cent to 2.25 per cent by next year, which could leave some workers with a pay cut in real terms.
Tackling the rising cost of living through tax cuts and efforts to stem inequality will become the key policy test for the Turnbull government and the opposition this year as both parties settle their election agendas after torpid wage growth stunted an otherwise strong economic performance in 2017.
Those in the struggling industries of retail, telecommunications, media and transport will face some of the steepest hurdles to getting their pay packets above inflation after signing agreements at 2 per cent or below in the three months to September.
More than 3000 Qantas flight attendants signed an agreement that will see their wages increase by just 1.8 per cent a year, while 2000 Ikea employees will take home a pay rise of just 1 per cent.
The mining industry’s halcyon days of 6 per cent plus pay rises have all but turned to dust with 1500 employees securing a pay rise of just 1.9 per cent in the September quarter.
At the other end of the scale, the booming Victorian and NSW industries of construction, financial services and education are most likely to get a pay rise, with all locking in wage rises of 2.6 per cent or above.
The department found that the number of agreements being signed across all industries was slashed by more than half. More than 1500 were signed in the last quarter three years ago, compared with just 680 signed in the three months to September, the most recent period for which data is available.
Between the states, workers in Victoria were more likely to get a pay rise than anywhere else in the country, with the 206 agreements signed between 88,000 workers in the three months to September securing an average pay rise of 3.1 per cent.
The result was heavily influenced by a deal done between Victorian schools and their teachers for a wage rise of between 3.25 and 4 per cent per annum.
Workers in the ACT and the Northern Territory secured deals of 2.5 per cent, with Queensland closely behind.
More than 19,000 workers in NSW netted the fourth lowest result in the country with a 2.3 per cent rise, above only Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania.
From the Sydney Morning Herald. 16 January 2018. http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/the-jobs-that-will-or-wont-be-getting-a-pay-rise-this-year-20180115-h0ii8u.html