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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Labor focuses on secure work and better pay, but avoids target commitment

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Thousands of union members have marched in Brisbane for Labour Day, as Labor promised higher wages and more secure jobs if Anthony Albanese becomes prime minister.

Solidarity Forever and When The Saints Go Marching In were the soundtrack at the Brisbane showgrounds as unionists and Albanese addressed the raucous crowd. 

“We’ve been through a couple of really tough years and essential workers … have kept this country going during this difficult time,” he said.

“You deserve more than thanks. You deserve a government that cares about secure work. You deserve a government that wants to increase your pay.”

Addressing the media and a small crowd from the United Workers Union ahead of the march, Albanese attacked stagnant wages over the past decade under the coalition government. 

We’ve been through a couple of really tough years and essential workers … have kept this country going during this difficult time. You deserve more than thanks. You deserve a government that cares about secure work. You deserve a government that wants to increase your pay.

Federal opposition leader, Anthony Albanese

“Our plan for more secure work today will be a theme of May Day and Labour Day, a day where we celebrate the fact that working people have fought to gain wages and conditions over a long, long period of time,” he said.

“The simple principle that we celebrate today is a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.”

But Albanese and his industrial relations spokesman Tony Burke were unable to answer questions about what the party would accept as a benchmark for real wages growth. 

“Whenever things are going up except pay, there is a simple benchmark,” Burke said.

“I have made it pretty clear, people cannot continue to go backwards in their pay and conditions.”

Labor has pledged to convene an employment summit as one of its first actions if it forms government in May and draw up a “full employment” white paper. 

The party is hoping a strong showing from unionists will spur swing voters in the target seat of Brisbane, held by the Liberals on a 4.9 per cent margin, and shore up voters in the Labor-held seat of Griffith, held on a tight 2.9 per cent margin. 

Griffith is a three-cornered contest with the Greens looking to pry voters away from Labor.

Albanese urged voters in the Queensland capital to help elect him come May 21.

“You deserve a government as brave and committed to this nation and as ambitious as you are,” he told the crowd.

“No pressure but I’m relying on you. I’m relying on you Brisbane to bring this home.”

Greens senator Larissa Waters and their lead Queensland Senate candidate Penny Allman-Payne also used the Labour Day march to launch the party’s plan to close the gender pay gap by raising wages in industries dominated by women. 

The party has pledged to provide annual wage increases for women-dominated industries like healthcare, social assistance and education of 0.5 per cent above inflation over the next decade. 

Early learning advocates Thrive by Five want the federal and state governments to immediately implement an interim 10 per cent wage supplement for all early childhood educators and establish a taskforce to address the early childhood workforce crisis.

The coalition argues its plan to drive down the unemployment rate, which is headed towards a 50-year low, will lift wages.

Coalition campaign spokeswoman Anne Ruston said the Fair Work Commission was the appropriate independent body to determine pay.

“Mr Albanese has made comments but what he has so far said is … he’s going to write a letter to the Fair Work Commission,” Senator Ruston told ABC TV on Monday, asked about the aged care sector’s wage claim.

“We absolutely are committed to supporting our healthcare (and aged care) system – $18.8 billion from this Government to respond to the recommendations of the aged care royal commission.”

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