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Newcastle retail workers feeling the heat

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Newcastle retail workers say they are struggling with the rising cost of living, at a time when their wages are injecting billions of dollars into regional economies.

The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA) is joining calls for a five per cent wage increase for low-paid workers, citing a new report that shows retail earnings add $15.7 billion to regional and rural Australia every year.

The report, by think tank Per Capita, says retail wages contribute $302 million per week to regional and rural economies, and workers are more likely to spend their money locally.

The employees earn just above the minimum wage of $20.33, with hourly full-time rates between $22.33 and $27.32, according to the Fair Work Ombudsman.

The ACTU has been calling for a five per cent increase to the minimum wage as pay rates lag behind projected inflation.

SDA Newcastle branch secretary Barbara Nebart said retail workers in regional economies were feeling huge pressure from rising housing and living costs.

Forty-six per cent of its members are concerned with the effect of high rental and house prices to the future health and liveability of their local area.

“Retail workers have been on the frontline of the pandemic and this service, along with their massive contribution to the economy, should be recognised with a meaningful wage rise,” Ns Nebart said.

“The pandemic crisis and recent instability have highlighted the critical role of stable, essential jobs and this new report shows retail plays a significant contribution to local economies.

“One of the best and fairest investments for regional communities is increasing the take-home pay of retail and fast food workers and placing more dollars back into household budgets.

“This wage rise needs to happen right now to help with cost of living skyrocketing and a decade of sluggish wage growth.

“Wage increases have failed to keep up with the rising costs of living, including food, housing and childcare, with more pressure on the way.

“The Federal Budget has forecast up to 4.5 per cent inflation over the next year alone.”

  • with AAP

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