National News

Australians struggling with living costs

Only one in five Australians received a pay rise big enough to cover their living costs in the past year, new polling shows.

A ReachTEL survey commissioned by the Australian Council of Trade Unions found about 48 per cent of people had not received a pay increase in the past 12 months.

Some 33 per cent of respondents got a wage boost, but it wasn't enough to cover the cost of living.

Just 19 per cent got an increase which allowed them to pay for living costs in the past year.

The ACTU is using the results as ammunition in its ongoing campaign to overhaul workplace laws, including a push for sector-wide bargaining on pay agreements.

"Our system is out of balance. Big business has too much power and employers can just say no to fair pay rises," ACTU secretary Sally McManus said.

Major employer groups have rejected the ACTU's agenda, while Workplace Minister Craig Laundy has spoken out against a return to industry-wide bargaining saying it could cripple the economy.

More than 80 per cent of people surveyed said low wages growth, putting pressure on living standards, was an important election matter.

Of those almost 30 per cent of those rated it as the top issue.

The union-sponsored poll of almost 2500 people also asked about voting intentions ahead of the federal election due by May.

Labor leads the coalition 51-49 on a two-party preferred basis, the same result of the most recent Newspoll.

Unions' latest push will include collecting stories next week from people who say their wages aren't keeping up with living costs.

"We are gathering the stories of people - both union members and non-members - who are being hurt by the broken rules that are preventing people winning fair pay rises," Ms McManus said.

© AAP 2018