On 22 January, 2015 the Productivity Commission released Issues Papers on the Workplace Relations Framework Inquiry, and called for submissions.

There are two particular issues in the Inquiry of importance to the St Vincent de Paul Society: penalty rates, and the minimum wage. While the Government has announced that it will not be making changes to these features of the workplace relations framework, given their importance to us, and after consultation with our members, we present this submission.

It is essential that penalty rates and the minimum wage be maintained in the Australian workplace relations framework. Both serve as essential buffers against extreme poverty, and are relied on by those Australians who are battling to make ends meet. Deregulating either would result in swinging the pendulum further in favour of employers – many of whom, history has shown, will take whatever steps they can to maximise their profits at the expense of employees’ standards of living.

Our workplace relations system must be underpinned not just by a desire for profit and increased participation, but by values of fairness, human rights and wellbeing. We do not want an Australia in which everyone is working, but in which inequality is insurmountable and living standards are low. We do not want an Australia in which individuals have to struggle desperately for sparse resources. Instead, Vinnies has a vision of an Australia in which everyone has an equal chance at a meaningful life and equal access to an adequate standard of living. For the reasons above, we believe that penalty rates and the minimum wage are an essential part of that vision.