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Bishop Christopher Saunders, Chairman of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council, today issued a Pastoral Letter for the Feast of St Joseph the Worker (1st May). The Letter, entitled “The Minimum Wage in an Age of Prosperity and Wealth” is available on the ACSJC website,

Bishop Saunders said, “Work is an essential key to the proper functioning of society and the adequacy of wages provides the measure to judge its justice.

“At a time when wage protection and other aspects of Australia’s Industrial Relations system are being questioned, our attention turns to the needs of almost 1.6 million workers on the minimum wage. There are others – including the unemployed and underemployed – who also rely on the maintenance of a fair minimum wage to protect against poverty when work becomes available.”

Bishop Saunders said there are three standards in Church teaching that are relevant to the current debate concerning the minimum wage. “The minimum must adequately reward workers for their labour, it must meet the needs of the workers and their families, and it must not be allowed to fall below the level of subsistence.

“The Australian Catholic Commission for Employment Relations recently called for a significant increase in the minimum wage because, after tax and government benefits, many families are still struggling to meet the very necessities of living.

“At this time of national prosperity, we should remember the needs of people both in and out of work on the margins of the labour market. Their need and entitlement is for a wage that ensures dignity for the worker and the family”, Bishop Saunders concluded.