Some of Dubbo's lowest paid workers will receive almost $20 a week extra from Thursday, but others will have to wait longer for the change to their pay packet.
The Fair Work Commission revealed on June 16 the national minimum wage would rise 2.5 per cent to $772.60 per week or $20.33 an hour.
But the 2.3 million Australians on award rates or the national minimum wage won't all see the $18.80-a-week bump on July 1, with employers of general retail award workers only required to start paying the higher rate on September 1.
Workers covered under aviation, fitness, tourism and certain retail sector awards will have their pay rise delayed until November 1.
Woolworths is bringing in the pay rise for its lower paid workers in Woolworths supermarkets and Big W stores on Thursday, two months earlier than required by the commission.
BREAKING: Woolworths Supermarkets & Big W to pay 2.5% wage increase on 1 July.— SDA Union (@SDAunion) June 17, 2021
This is despite the Fair Work Commission’s unfair decision to delay the increase by 2 months for essential retail workers.
We welcome this decision and call on other retailers to do the same.
Associate Professor Larissa Bamberry, from Charles Sturt University's School of Management and Marketing, said "the retail sector in particular" needed to "consider bringing it forward".
I would like to think that others would consider doing that as well, because we have been highly dependent on our front-line workers in the retail sector since COVID.CSU Associate Professor Larissa Bamberry
"I would like to think that others [besides Woolworths] would consider doing that as well, because we have been highly dependent on our front-line workers in the retail sector since COVID," she said.
"These people, particularly in supermarkets et cetera, are doing quite challenging work that requires them to be at risk and there's increased potential for them to actually catch COVID, and so it does seem incredibly unfair for that risk not to have been recognised in their wage rates up until now."
Associate Professor Bamberry said it was a much-needed boost to the minimum wage, and could help the economies of regional areas.
"I think for the far west in particular, you've got very low unemployment in the Dubbo region at the moment, and a wage increase could only improve the chances of actually attracting people to come to the region, and increased wages could really help with some of the skills shortages they're experiencing in the western region at the moment," she said.
People working the minimum wage are usually younger people, the CSU academic says.
"They tend to be in retail and hospitality sectors, so those are the people who are going to be most affected by the increase in those groups," she said.
The associate professor suggests that is significant for regional areas.
"I really do think it's only good news for the western district because there's very low unemployment levels really, across the region," Associate Professor Bamberry said.
"The figures that were released by the ABS just yesterday [June 24] actually show that in fact unemployment rates in the Dubbo, western region are actually lower than they are across the state as a whole, and as I say those particular age groups, are at zero unemployment, which is almost unheard of.
"Youth unemployment is usually higher than the average so to have no capacity left in those age groups, I think the only way you're going to be able to bring more workers into the region is by offering higher wages.
"So it can help to actually bring young workers, young people back to the region if you can offer higher wages in that region, because the cost of living is lower than in capital cities.
"And I think over the COVID period, the western districts have really seen some... outflows, shall we say, in those age groups - they're more likely to have been heading into the city.
"Whereas the people coming from the city tend to be in the 55 plus age groups.
"So it would be a big help to actually increase the proportion of younger people in your population, if you can boost wages in those sectors."
So it would be a big help to actually increase the proportion of younger people in your population, if you can boost wages in those sectors.CSU Associate Professor Larissa Bamberry
In the wake of the commission's decision, Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said the increase was too high given low-paid workers had benefited from income tax hikes.
"The increase will put even more distance between Australia's national minimum wage and minimum wages in other countries," he said.
"The decision sends a very bad signal and is likely to impact adversely on the recovery. At the current stage of the recovery, the focus needs to be on boosting employment."
The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA), the union for retail workers, welcomed the move by Woolworths and reported Dan Murphy's and Liquorland had followed suit, but said there was no excuse for other retailers to stall.
The SDA is engaging with all major retailers, insisting they pass on the increase in the minimum
wage from July 1 as had always been the case until the pandemic struck last year, SDA national secretary Gerard Dwyer says.