Present tense: Award increases

In mid-June, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) brought down its annual national wage decision, and it’s a pretty good outcome for low-paid workers and for employees on awards.

The FWC increased the minimum wage by 5.2%, slightly above the headline rate of inflation (5.1%) and well ahead of the underlying rate of 3.7%. The new minimum wage is $812.60 per week ($21.38 per hour).

For workers on awards, pay rates have increased by 4.6%, subject to a minimum rise of $40 per week for full-time employees. Nearly all employees in the private college industry are on the Educational Services (Post-Secondary Education) Award, and here annual salaries have increased to $58,148.47 on Level 4, $63,495.89 on Level 7 and $70,566.61 on Level 11. Meanwhile the casual daily rate has increased to $278.49 (Level 4), $304.10 (Level 7) and $337.96 (Level 11), with all rates increased by similar amounts. Increases are about $2000-$3000 per annum, and for casuals, about $12-$13 per day.

This is a good outcome for employees on the award, and it is pleasing that the Commission has listened to the arguments of the ACTU (and, through it, the IEU) and the new Federal Labor Government for significant, above-inflation increases to minimum wages. The new rates take effect from 1 July, so check your pay slip to ensure you are being paid correctly.

Superannuation increases

Pay is not the only thing that increased in July, with the next scheduled increase to compulsory employer-paid superannuation also taking effect. Super will go up to 10.5% of wages this month, with further increases of 0.5% scheduled for the next few years. By 2025, the standard superannuation contribution for all workers will be 12% of ordinary wages, which will go a long way to ensuring workers have a decent retirement income.

There are also several other changes to super rules from July. The most significant of these for post-secondary employees is that the minimum threshold for earning super (which was $450 per month) has been abolished, and so henceforth, workers will be paid super on all normal income, no matter how small. There are also some changes that will benefit older workers, including a more generous ‘downsizer’ allowance (whereby people selling the family home can put some of the proceeds into super), and an easing of the work test for older workers.

Agreements update

The IEU is still actively bargaining in the sector. Teachers at UTS College have recently voted on a new two-year agreement for the college, which will provide for pay increases of 2.5% per annum, while WSU The College will probably put forward a similar offer to its employees soon. This latter one is complicated by concerns some casual members have about changes to their pay levels, but we are hopeful these issues can be worked out in due course. Meanwhile, bargaining continues at UoW College, and will soon commence at Taylors College, Navitas English and other colleges.

The Fair Work Act includes provisions for ‘good faith bargaining’, under which an employer can be compelled to commence bargaining when it can be demonstrated that a majority of employees (or group of employees, such as teachers) want this to happen. Trainers at BSI Learning have recently exercised this right.

Employees under enterprise agreements typically earn higher wages and enjoy better conditions than those under the award. To learn how this might work at your workplace, contact your union, the IEU.

Kendall Warren Organiser

Kendall Warren