Over recent months, we have witnessed the Morrison Government stage a multi-pronged war on workers, designed to subsidise profits by suppressing worker bargaining power and keeping businesses well stocked with abundant cheap labour.
Examples of the Coalition’s policy settings include:
- Refusing to lift JobSeeker to a subsistence level, thereby ‘incentivising’ workers to take precarious, low paying jobs;
- Introducing a hotline for employers to dob in unemployed people that refuse to take said low-paying job; and
- Proposing to give employers unbridled access to cheap migrant workers under the guise of ‘skills shortages’.
The last policy is especially malicious towards Australian workers, since it would enable almost any employer to hire foreign workers over locals, would give these foreign workers priority access to flights and quarantine over stranded Australians, and would offer prospective migrants the explicit carrot of easy permanent residency.
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In proposing these immigration reforms, Liberal MP Julian Lesser claimed that Australia is “facing a shortage of skilled labour almost unprecedented in our history, and we can solve this through skilled migration”.
So, instead of allowing wages to adjust upwards to entice workers into areas of shortage, the Morrison Government would prefer that employers import cheap workers from abroad, as well as abrogate their responsibilities to provide training. That’s an Australia last policy right there.
Fast forward to today and the Morrison Government has now contradictorily urged the Fair Work Commission’s (FWC) wage panel not to raise the minimum wage because the economy is riddled with “significant spare capacity” – the polar opposite of the purported labour shortages claimed above:
“Given the continuing uncertain global and domestic economic outlook, higher labour costs during this challenging period could present a major constraint to small business recovery and may dampen employment in the sector,” [the Government submission to the FWC] said…
Despite the economy bouncing back stronger than expected and employment returning to its pre-pandemic levels, the government pointed out there was still “significant spare capacity” with unemployment 0.6 percentage points higher than in March 2020.
So, on the one hand businesses are “facing a shortage of skilled labour almost unprecedented in our history”, thereby requiring unrestricted access to foreign workers.
But on the other, the economy is facing “significant spare capacity” that necessitates no increase in the minimum wage.
The only thing that is certain is that we have a bastard federal government that is hell bent on boosting company profits by suppressing wage costs.
Australian wage growth will remain in the gutter as long as the Coalition Government remains in control.
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