The Annual Wage Review Panel of the Fair Work Commission has been meeting regularly since the start of this year and has been in receipt of submissions from interested parties into the 2019/2020 Annual Wage Review.
Initial submissions were lodged at the end of March 2020 for interested parties.
In the First Submission of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) in March 2020, ACCI stated that:
“ Given that the full effect and duration of the COVID-19 outbreak cannot yet be known, and due to the extreme economic, community and labour market uncertainty of early 2020, ACCI is not yet in a position to make a recommendation to the Expert Panel on:
a. Whether there should be any increase in the NMW and minimum award wage rates in 2020, or whether the 2020 review should give rise to an order maintaining rather than increasing minimum wages.
b. If there were to be an increase, what level may be sustainable, consistent with the applicable statutory considerations, given the massive uncertainty and risks created by the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic and jobs impact.”
The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) submitted that a 4% increase should be applied to the minimum wage by the Annual Wage Review Panel.
The Annual Wage Review Panel has agreed on changes to the usual timetable that would apply for the 2019/2020 given the COVID-19 pandemic. The Annual Wage Review Panel stated:
“ In taking into account the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, the March statement noted that further changes to the timetable would be necessary to provide parties with an opportunity to comment on a rapidly changing environment and relevant data as it emerges”.
Given the importance of the March quarter National Accounts data for the review, the Annual Wage Review Panel has agreed on a revised timetable that extends the time for filing submissions to 4 May 2020, supplementary submissions to 29 May 2020 and final oral submissions on 10 June 2020.
Interestingly, the FWC has also published a discussion paper entitled “What can and can’t be done in the Annual Wage Review 2019-2020”. The discussion paper was developed in response to various proposals being put forward by interested parties including “… deferring the commencement of any adjustments and excluding modern awards or sectors of industry from any adjustment awarded.”
In the discussion paper it lists what the FWC can do and can’t do in relation to the Annual Wage Review 2019-2020. It is noted in the discussion paper that the FWC can:
- “ … delay the introduction of the increase beyond 1 July 2020 for some or all employers and employees, exempt some employers and employees from the increase, or reduce the amount of the increase for some employers and employees, provided this is justified by exceptional circumstances arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
- “… provide for one increase in award minimum wages commencing on 1 July 2020 and a further increase comme3ncing on 1 December 2020.”
Members will be kept up to date with any developments in relation to the 2019/2020 Annual Wage Review.
A copy of the discussion paper can be downloaded by clicking here https://www.fwc.gov.au/documents/wage-reviews/2019-20/consultations/discussion-paper.pdf
 2019-20 Annual Wage Review, First Submission of the Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry, March 2020, see page 3
 ACTU Submission, Submission to the Annual Wage Review, 2019-20, 20 March, 2020
 Statement FWC – Annual Wage Review 2019-20,  FWCFB 1804, para 
 Statement FWC – Annual Wage Review 2019-20,  FWCFB 1804
 FWC Discussion Paper – What can and can’t be done in the Annual Wage Review 2019-20, 13 May 2020, page 1
 FWC Discussion Paper – What can and can’t be done in the Annual Wage Review 2019-20, 13 May 2020, para 59(ii)
 FWC Discussion Paper – What can and can’t be done in the Annual Wage Review 2019-20, 13 May 2020, para 59(iii)