WIMMERA leaders fear increases to the minimum wage in regional areas could be detrimental to small businesses.
In a submission to the Fair Work Commission's annual wage review, the state government had argued the national minimum wage should be bumped up to $19 an hour, the equivalent of about $722 a week.
The government believes the increase would help address the gender pay gap and protect Australia's most vulnerable workers.
Minimum wage is now at $18.29 an hour, which equates to $695.02 for a 38-hour week, before tax.
StawellBiz president Nigel Keating said while it was important that people were paid a fair and reasonable amount, any increase in wages was tough for employers in regional areas.
He said the increase would mean many businesses would be forced to increase their prices.
“Throughout the western district, retail and hospitality businesses are already struggling,” he said.
“If there are wage increases, that increase is passed on to the consumer. If the consumer doesn’t want to pay extra, then it’s the employee who will lose out in the end.”
Wimmera Development Association executive director Ralph Kenyon said there was significant pros and cons to increasing wages.
“Increasing the minimum wage could provide more spending opportunities for workers in the community,” he said.
“However, the increase could make things difficult for the employer, so it really is a double-edge sword.
“We need to ensure people are getting paid the appropriate wage for their job, but we also need to ensure businesses can afford to pay their workers.”
Mr Kenyon said while he welcomed the increase, the government needed to make sure small businesses wouldn’t be disadvantaged.
“Everyone would like an increase in their wage, but it must also be sustainable for businesses or we run the risk of pricing ourselves out of the market,” he said.