Who loses when penalty rates are cut? We all do

The Fair Work Commission’s decision to cut Sunday and public holiday pay rates for almost one million workers will have a wide ranging impact on the wellbeing and financial security of workers. IEU members are asked to contact the Prime Minister and their local MP and demand legislation that protects all weekend and public holiday rates.

Fair Work decision: Not fair on workers

Hospitality, restaurant, fast food, retail and pharmacy workers will have their Sunday rates of pay reduced as penalty loading percentages will be slashed by 25% to 50%. Public holiday penalty loading percentages will also be cut by up to 50%.

The result of this decision will mean that up to one million workers, including some of the country's lowest paid workers, would lose up to $6000 a year.

The Fair Work Commission says these penalty rates are “no longer fair or relevant”. But how accurate is this?

Weekend rates have been paid to those on hourly rates who are working late at night, weekends and public holidays. Weekend and public holiday rates have the biggest impact on workers in service industries such as hospitality, retail, as well as in aged care, child care, nursing and cleaning.

The majority of workers dependent on weekend rates are women and those who have household incomes of $60,000 or less. The extra pay for working unsociable hours means food on the table, payment for mortgages or rents and resources for children’s education.

We aren’t a 24/7 society

Despite all the technological changes, most work is still undertaken during regular hours of 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. About 71% of the workforce does not work on the weekend or evenings, a statistic that has remained steady since the 1990s.

As a community, we still look at weekends, Sundays and public holidays as important days for rest, socialising and family time.

Weekend and public holiday rates play an important role in increasing the pay of the lowest paid workers who use their hard earned money to purchase basic necessities so every dollar earnt puts money back into the economy at a greater rate than someone on a higher income.

The effects of reducing or abolishing Sunday and public holiday rates will be widely felt, especially in towns and local economies in rural and regional Australia.

No more employment

The Fair Work Commission has stated that cutting Sunday and public holiday rates will allow more businesses to open on weekends and provide for more employment. Yet, it is a mystery how reducing wages will create more customers or put more money in the community for spending.

The Fair Work Commission argues that youth unemployment would be addressed if Sunday and public holiday pay rates were cut. However, such claims do not stack up in an industry that has access to youth rates and can pay a school leaver almost half the adult minimum wage.

IEU members are asked to contact the Prime Minister https://www.pm.gov.au/contact-your-pm and ask: “Why is it fair that the least paid workers have to give up weekend rates when that means they will either need to work even more hours to make up the pay, or just accept less take home pay?” and Contact their local Member of Parliament http://www.aph.gov.au/Senators_and_Members/Members and demand legislation which will protect weekend rates.

Sign the ACTU petition https://www.megaphone.org.au/petitions/weekend-workers-don-t-deserve-a-pay-cut-1 .