Present tense Minimum wage review

Over the next few months, the Fair Work Commission will deliberate on its annual minimum wage review, and the final decision usually flows through to all federal awards, including the main award used in the private college sector, the Educational Services (Post-Secondary Education) Award.

One key consideration, of course, is the current spike in the cost of living. The most recent (December) quarterly inflation figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) had CPI at 7.8%, and while more recent interim figures suggest that this might be moderating, it still remains high.

Consequently, the ACTU (of which the IEU is an affiliate) is pushing for a minimum wage increase of 7%. For its part, the federal government has made some supportive noises along the same lines, though their final position is yet to be publicised. It is vital that award wages, upon which millions of lower-paid Australians rely, keep pace with inflation.

The Commission should release its final decision in early June, with any increases to take effect from 1 July.

Superannuation reform

Non-payment of superannuation is a perennial problem in the private college sector, as it is in many industries racked with lower wages and lower regulation, but change may be on the way.

The current rules require that employer-paid superannuation must be paid quarterly, and within 28 days. This means that super on income earned in the period January through to March must be paid no later than 28 April. Given the disconnect between salary and pay (which is normally paid fortnightly), there have been growing calls to require super to be paid more frequently.

In late March, the federal government introduced legislation enabling workers to directly sue for unpaid super, in similar ways to how workers can currently chase up unpaid wages (previously only the ATO could pursue unpaid super). The government is also reported to seriously considering introducing payment of super in line with pay cycles (ie on pay day).

Non-payment of super impacts more deeply on lower paid workers, and on women (who are more often in those same lower paid jobs), leaving many workers up to $40,000 worse off in retirement, and so the coming changes are welcome.

Agreement round-up

Your union continues to push for improvements on behalf of members, most saliently in enterprise bargaining. The IEU has recently finalised agreements at UoW College and WSU The College (both securing pay rises of over 10% over three years), and your union is currently negotiating with Taylors College, UNSW Global, and Navitas English.

The Fair Work Act includes provisions for “good faith bargaining”, this and allows workers to insist on the commencement of bargaining where it can be demonstrated that a majority of employees (or group of employees, such as teachers) want that to happen. To find out how this might work at your college, contact your union.

Kendall Warren