"The Expert Panel of the Fair Work Commission needs to take a cautious approach when determining the quantum of this year's minimum wage increase. An excessive increase would reduce the job security of low paid workers and reduce employment opportunities for the unemployed and underemployed.
"Despite some improvements in GDP and employment growth, national disposable income growth remains weak, and unemployment and underemployment rates continue to indicate considerable spare capacity.
"Businesses are under pressure. Steep energy price rises are proving difficult to pass on to customers and are squeezing margins across a wide range of industries. Also, productivity growth has been exceedingly weak over the past decade and over the current productivity growth cycle.
"Global competitiveness is a key risk for Australian businesses. Australia already has one of the highest national minimum wage rates in the world, and most Australian workers are entitled to award wage rates that are higher than the National Minimum Wage.
"Currently, background inflation in Australia is weak and this means that a smaller minimum wage increase will generate real wage increases for workers, including those in low-wage jobs. Now is not the time to take risks with minimum wage setting.
"The 3.3 per cent minimum wage increase awarded by the Panel last year was exceptionally high and out of step with economic factors. It is essential that the increase awarded by the Panel this year is much more modest. When all of the relevant factors are weighed up, a 1.8 per cent minimum wage increase is appropriate," Mr Willox said.
Media enquiries: Tony Melville – 0419 190 347