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Millions of Australian workers could receive annual pay rises of up to six per cent as part of a push by the unions for employers to keep wages up with the surging cost of living.
Supermarket, construction and hospitality sector unions claim three per cent wage increases are no longer sufficient as sanctions on Russia over the invasion of Ukraine push commodity prices to record highs.
The United Workers Union, which represents more than 150,000 workers across 45 industries, said its members would pursue higher real wage rises over the next two years.
Millions of Australian workers could receive annual pay rises of up to six per cent as part of a push by the unions to match the surging cost of living. Pictured is a file image of a worker on a construction site in Sydney
‘You won’t see workers readily accept the wage outcomes last year of three and 3.5 per cent,’ UWU national secretary Tim Kennedy told The Australian Financial Review.
‘The feedback we’re getting is workers are exasperated and the appetite to pursue real wage rises is high.’
The Electrical Trades Union said its demands for yearly pay increases would be between five and six per cent.
‘Workers are watching their living standards melt away through a toxic combination of stagnant wages and higher prices,’ the ETU’s assistant national secretary Michael Wright said.
Australia’s unemployment rate fell to four per cent in February – down from 4.2 per cent in January – the lowest since 2008 when Kevin Rudd was prime minister.
The trend is expected to push wages up as recruitment becomes more difficult.
International sanctions on Russia over the invasion of Ukraine are pushing commodity prices to record highs. Pictured are shoppers on Pitt Street in Sydney
Sanctions on Russia’s authoritarian regime have already pushed unleaded petrol prices to $2 a litre and inflation is forecast to reach five per cent in June. Pictured is a person filling up their car in Sydney
The Health Services Union has called for hospital workers to be the first to have their pay increased as productivity in the industry increases.
In NSW, annual increases to public sector wages is set at 2.5 per cent.
Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Philip Lowe said Russia’s war has also increased the likelihood of an interest rate rise in 2022.
‘In the last couple of weeks the Russian invasion of Ukraine is pushing up commodity prices right across the board – higher prices for energy, for base metals and for many agricultural products as well,’ he told the Banking 2022 conference.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine makes an early interest rate rise in 2022 more likely, the Reserve Bank says (pictured are emergency crews cleaning a building in Kharkiv which Russian rockets destroyed)
‘Given these developments, it is plausible that interest rates will increase this year. It’s not guarantee but it’s plausible.’
Average capital city petrol prices have surged above $2 a litre for the first time ever, MotorMouth data showed.
Sydney’s average regular unleaded price stood at 216.5c a litre on Monday, with Melbourne slugged 212.5c a litre.
Motorists in Brisbane were typically paying 218.3c a litre compared with 220c a litre in Adelaide, 208.7c a litre in Perth, 219.9c a litre in Hobart, 206.4c a litre in Darwin and 208.6c a litre in Canberra.
In June 2008, just before the Global Financial Crisis, daily average prices reached a record high equivalent to 212.9c a litre, once prices 14 years ago are adjusted for inflation.
With petrol a key production cost component of most goods, Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Philip Lowe said Russia’s war had increased the likelihood of an interest rate rise in 2022
CommSec senior economist Ryan Felsman said a prolonged Russian war in Ukraine could push average, capital city petrol prices to $2.50 a litre.
‘Aussie retail unleaded petrol prices continue to hit record highs, and national pump prices could lift to $2.50 a litre in coming weeks if Russia’s ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine becomes protracted or intensifies,’ he said.
‘All pump prices are at or near record highs today.’
In late February, as Russia invaded Ukraine, average petrol prices in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth hit 182.4c a litre, then the highest retail price adjusted for inflation since 2014, new Australian Competition and Consumer Commission data released on Monday showed.
Before the invasion, Russia was the world’s third biggest producer of crude oil after Saudi Arabia and the US.
‘Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the OPEC cartel’s refusal to boost crude oil production, combined with recovering oil demand as countries relaxed Covid-19 restrictions, pushed February prices for both international refined petrol and average retail petrol in Australia’s five largest cities to an eight-year high,’ the ACCC said.
Last year, average retail petrol prices surged by 41.4c a litre or 34 per cent.