MINIMUM wages should be maintained at current levels through to mid-2021 in a submission by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission set to be lodged with the Fair Work Commission this week.

“With Australia facing an unprecedented economic and jobs crisis, we simply cannot afford to increase the price of retaining and regaining jobs in 2020,” said ACCI chief executive James Pearson.

“We cannot afford to place even more jobs at risk by making the cost of employment higher – 2020 is one of those extraordinary years in which our minimum wages simply should not be increased. 

“We should take stock of [recent] confronting unemployment and underemployment figures. This is not time to be talking about wage increases when hundreds of thousands of Australians have lost their jobs or can’t get enough hours of work.”

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Mr Pearson said Australia had high minimum wages compared with the rest of the world.

“Australian businesses, particularly small businesses, simply cannot afford another ‘business as usual’ increase in minimum wages during this pandemic,” he said.

“We must not confuse what government can do to stimulate the economy with what we can ask of small businesses. And in particular we cannot afford a 4% increase, which would be the highest increase in a decade, as has been proposed by the ACTU.”

Mr Pearson said the government made the right decision introducing JobKeeper payments, arguing they helped thousands of businesses retain millions of jobs.

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