Wage explosion 1981–1982

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01 July 2015

The abandonment of indexation and the Wage Pause

Finally, in July 1981, in the National Wage Case 1981[1], the Commission abandoned the indexation system:

‘The events since April [the April 1981 inquiry into wage fixing principles] have shown clearly that the commitment of the participants to the system is not strong enough to sustain the requirements for its continued operation.  The immediate manifestation of this is the high level of industrial action in various industries including the key areas of Telecom, road transport, the Melbourne waterfront and sections of the Australian public service’. 

The Commission said that any application for adjustment of wages or conditions on economic grounds will not be heard before February 1982.

Several important industry cases were:

in September 1981 the Commission refused to ratify an agreement to increase rates in the Transport Workers Award 1972 by $20[2]

on 18 December 1981 the Commission approved a consent award reached between employers and unions relating to the Metal Industry Award 1971[3].  It provided for no further claims; 38-hour week to be introduced from 15 March 1982; supplementary payment be increased by $9.30 per week for fitters with proportionate increases for other classifications; tool allowance for tradesmen be increased by $2; from first pay period on or after 1 June 1982 award wage rates increased by $14 for fitters with relative increases for other classifications (this increase is to be the only increase to apply during the currency of the agreement and in lieu of National Wage Cases);  special rates and meal allowance when working overtime to reflect award wage rates.

in March 1982 the Commission adjourned an agreement to increase rates in the Manufacturing Grocers’ Consolidated Award 1975 by $20 and other matters.  It decided to convene a conference.[4]

On 14 May 1982 in the National Wage Case[5] (1982) the Commission adjourned trade union applications for extensive case by case award increases. 

In December 1982 in the National Wage Case[6] (1982) the Commission introduced a wage pause to last until June 1983.  No award increases would occur other than the first instalment of the ‘metal industry standard’, with some provision for work value, allowances, and 38 hour week agreements.

[1] Print E7300 31 July 1981; 260 CAR 4

[2] Print E7520 1 September 1981; 261 CAR 224

[3] Print E8389 18 December 1981

[4] Print E9292 26 March 1982

[5] Print E9700 14 May 1982

[6] Print F1600 23 December 1982