Canberra's retail, hospitality workers speak on Fair Work Commission rate cuts


24 February, 2017

"While the decision's realignment of Sunday penalty rates in the affected industries will be welcomed by all employers, the real message is that the decision shows that the Fair Work Commission is prepared to reassess historical norms if a merit based case demonstrates a need for change". For the 40 per cent of retail workers who are students, weekend trading means being able to earn money at the times most convenient for them.

Full-time and part-time hospitality workers will have their Sunday penalty rate cut from 175 per cent to 150 per cent.

Sydney man Trent Hunter appeared with the Opposition Leader and the employment spokesman Brendan O'Connor to humanise the Fair Work Commission's decision to cut penalty rates for Sunday shifts in retail, hospitality and fast food.

Sunday penalty rate reduced for level one employees from 150 to 125 per cent for full-time and part-time employees. Casual retail employees, who now receive either 275% or 250% on public holidays, are set to receive a standard 250% under the proposed changes.

Ms O'Neill, in her honours year at university, said she barely made enough to pay her expenses without the penalty rate cut.

The Fair Work Commission has spent nearly two years weighing evidence from more than 140 witnesses and 6000 written submissions.

Penalty rates have been part of the labour market for nearly 100 years, since the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission ruled in 1919 that additional payment was required for working unsociable hours.

"This decision is a game changer for industrial relations in Australia".

The politically inconvenient truth is that penalty rates are a hangover from a bygone era that costs tens of thousands of jobs and cripples businesses small and large.

"We're happy to continue paying penalty rates to our staff, and feel that by continuing to offer attractive terms and conditions of employment, we are best placed to attract and retain great staff". This is an attack on hospitality and retail workers.

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In a live broadcast, Fair Work Commission President Iain Ross thanked stakeholders for their input in the decision making process, highlighting that the final written submission on the decision was submitted on February 4.

On Twitter, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said people relied on penalty rates.

Penalties for casuals would e reduced from 175 to 150 per cent.

"I am gutted, It is such a disgrace, I do not accept the decision as a retail worker", Mr Hunter said.

This will hit young people the hardest as research tells us that while a third of Australians rely on regular Sunday shifts as part of their wage, almost 40% of young people rely on penalty rates to survive. It was a sensible, balanced and fair decision, he said.

"This cut in penalty rates is a cut in people's wages and it will hit young people especially hard..."

In hospitality, 33.5 per cent of workers were women working part time, while 20.8 per cent who were women working full-time.

The argument from employer groups has always been that high Sunday penalty rates - up to double time for some employee groups - no longer reflect community standards and have become a disincentive for shops to open their doors.

He called on Labor and the cross bench to support his party's move to block the cuts.

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