Media & Speeches

Penalty Rates Ploy Puts Politics Before People

“Labor and the Greens are putting political expediency ahead of good policy by walking away from new jobs, extra hours and fresh opportunities for small business, especially in regional Australia,” Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott said today following the parties’ introduction of proposed amendments to the Fair Work Act.
“After considering all the evidence, the Fair Work Commission and Productivity Commission came to the conclusion that adjusting Sunday penalty rates could create more jobs, more hours and more opportunities for small business.
“Under the commission’s ruling, many workers who’ve always wanted to work on Sundays could now have that chance – and still receive penalty rates up to 175 per cent. Many small businesses would also be able to open on Sunday for the first time.
“If the decision is overturned, the people most hurt will be those workers currently locked out of working Sundays, but who dearly need their first job opportunity or some extra cash to pay the bills.
“We can’t afford to do this when more than one-in-five young people are unemployed in communities like Townsville, northwest Melbourne, northern Adelaide and Shoalhaven in NSW.
“What’s the big difference between Saturday and Sunday nowadays? It’s not the 1950s anymore. Unions know that Sundays aren’t sacrosanct, which is why Sunday pay is often negotiated away.
“Does it make sense for people working Sundays to earn more than people working night shift, especially given evidence about the possible health impacts of night work? Under current awards, an aged care worker can be paid $21.64 per hour for a weeknight shift, compared to a casual fast food worker on $34 an hour on a Sunday.
“This is an unabashed assault on the independence and judgment of the Fair Work Commission. Labor claims its amendment will somehow preserve the Commission’s independence while using a heavy hand to overrule its decision on penalty rates.
“If politicians choose to walk away from the commission’s decision, they will be abandoning thousands of unemployed and underemployed people in regional towns and depriving small businesses of the chance to grow.
“The idea that penalty rates are being abolished is absurd. People who work Sundays would still be paid more than someone working Monday to Friday.
“This was a common-sense decision which will have common-sense results. A young worker getting a few extra hours and an opportunity to get ahead, and a small business being able to open.”