You have got to love the contradictory statements coming from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), which continues to talk with a forked tongue on the labour market.
The ACCI recently sent a submission to the Morrison Government’s migration program review whereby it demanded easier access to foreign workers to ameliorate purported crippling labour shortages:
“Skills shortages have been exacerbated by the prolonged closure of Australia’s border… It is a matter of survival for businesses in the accommodation, hospitality, cafes and restaurants sectors to access skilled migration”…
“Regional communities are intensively feeling the loss of migrants, not just for skilled workers, but for people to fill seasonal jobs in agriculture and hospitality”…
“A responsive, affordable and business-friendly migration system that has integrity checks in place is critically important to a strong, prosperous country in the future”.
However, in its submission to the Fair Work Commission’s (FWC) minimum wage review, it recommended a real wage cut citing “considerable slack in the labour market”, especially across industries like hospitality, which have been most impacted by border closures:
Recovery in employment is inconsistent across industry sectors and regions, with those most impacted by the international border closures, state-based restrictions and supply chain disruptions lagging the recovery. These are of course some of the most award reliant industries, most directly impacted by minimum wage rises flowing from these reviews.
Underemployment remains a considerable problem and with unemployment also relatively high, there continues to be considerable slack in the labour market. As a result of this slack, there is little pressure on wages growth…
The Panel should be mindful of the impact any increase in minimum and award minimum wages will have on vulnerable, financially stressed businesses in these award-reliant industries…
The ACCI has also released a second submission to the FWC, again urging the minimum wage to be increased by only 1.1% in 2021 (a real wage cut) citing the economic impact of Victoria’s latest COVID-19 lockdown.
How can the ACCI’s members simultaneously be having great difficulty finding local workers, necessitating the widespread importation of imported workers, while at the same time these same members are also experiencing “considerable slack in the labour market”, necessitating a real cut to the minimum wage. Which one is it? The ACCI cannot have it both ways.
The ACCI’s use of the hospitality industry to argue its case for foreign workers is the biggest joke.
The median earnings across the Accommodation & Food Services industry was by far the lowest in Australia in August 2020 (as well as August 2015) at only $650 per week, according to the ABS:
This industry is also ground zero for exploitation and wage theft from migrants.
Thus, if the hospitality industry is struggling to attract workers it should offer higher wages. That’s how the “labour market” is supposed to work.
Giving the hospitality industry greater access to migrant workers would only push wages even lower, deprive Australians of job opportunities, and exacerbate the wage theft and exploitation that is already endemic.
Clearly, the ACCI cares about one thing only: lowering its wage costs and making fatter profits. Flooding the labour market with foreign workers and cutting the minimum wage (in real terms) achieves this goal.
The ACCI is once again talking its own book and should be ignored by policy makers.