Employers pushing to abolish
w’end penalty rates – ACTU
MOVES by employers to strip workers of penalty rates on weekends will cut take-home pay and will be strongly resisted, says the Australian Council of trade Unions (ACTU).
Hundreds of thousands of workers in the retail and hospitality sectors depend on weekend penalty rates as a bedrock of their take-home pay, and a campaign by employers to remove them will result in a less fair Australia, says ACTU president Ged Kearney.
Ms Kearney says unions will use the Modern Awards Review process in Fair Work Australia to lock in entitlements for people who work on public holidays and weekends, and will unite against a campaign by employer groups to take away penalty rates from workers on Saturdays and Sundays.
She says the ACTU’s applications to the review will seek to preserve the rights to extra compensation that should come with working on days that most people take for granted as important family and social time.
“When employers talk about more flexibility in the workplace, what they are really seeking is to cut penalty rates and shift loadings that workers depend on as part of their take-home pay,” Ms Kearney says in a statement yesterday (Tuesday).
“Adequate compensation for working anti-social hours is part of what makes a secure job.
“People in part-time or casual work often give up their time on weekends, evenings and public holidays because they are the only hours available to them and usually rely on penalty rates to provide them with a sustainable income.
“The employers leading the campaign to remove weekend and public holiday entitlements are those in the restaurant and catering industry, but we know this is the thin edge of the wedge, and if employers succeed in these industries it will undermine the weekend penalty-rate system across all industries.
“Business owners should try living on hospitality and retail wages before thinking about slashing penalty rates.
“We are concerned that removing penalty rates is not only on the employers’ wish-list, but recent comments by (federal Opposition leader) Tony Abbott confirm it is also part of the Liberal Party’s agenda for Australian workplaces.
“Australian workers have shown before that they will punish at the ballot box any politician or political party that seeks to take away penalty rates or otherwise slash longstanding workplace rights and entitlements.”
A national survey by the United Voice union released on Sunday found that 87 per cent of Australians support the notion that if you work on weekends you should be entitled to a higher rate of pay, Ms Kearney says.