8 Jan 2009

Australian unions warned against high wage claims

3:04 pm on 8 January 2009

The Australian goverrnment wants unions to moderate their wage claims.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union in Western Australia says it will seek pay increases of up to 33% for members working at Alcoa Inc.

Alcoa has announced plans to axe 13,500 jobs worldwide, or 13% of its total workforce, and reduce smelting output by 18%.

However, acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard told ABC Radio on Thursday that Australia has to think about protecting jobs ahead of large wage increases.

But the Australian Council of Trade Unions is unapologetic about higher wage claims. ACTU president Sharan Burrow told local television that decent wages helped avert recession.

Only one in five Australian workers is a member of a trade union, with union membership falling 5% in 2008. Only 14% of employees in the private sector are union members.