Low-paid hospitality workers will be the winners from a Fair Work Australia decision to reject a Restaurant and Caterers’ Association bid to scrap penalty rates on Saturdays and Sundays.
ACTU president Ged Kearney said the decision recognised the importance of penalty rates in compensating workers for working unsociable hours.
“Workers in hospitality should be relieved that Fair Work Australia has seen reason and rejected this attempt to cut their wages,” she said. “However this will not be the last attempt business makes to get rid of penalty rates.”
The RCA was seeking a change to the penalty rates system, which would have seen workers only paid penalty rates if they worked six consecutive days, rather than every Saturday and Sunday.
“The RCA did not dispute that hospitality workers are low-paid and that penalty rates are the way that many make ends meet,” Ms Kearney said. “It simply tried to cut those already low wages with no compensation.
“Fair Work found that the RCA had not shown that reducing penalty rates would increase productivity or create jobs.
“Yet again the arguments raised by business when they want to get rid of penalty rates have been shown up when subjected to independent scrutiny.
“The only result of a cut to penalty rates will be greater hardship for low-paid workers. Cutting penalty rates will not create jobs because it will lead to these workers spending less.”
Ms Kearney said the union movement remained concerned that business would redouble its efforts to reduce penalty rates, with the Abbott Government unwilling to defend them.
“But there is still no long-term certainty that workers will keep their penalty rates. The Coalition has refused to guarantee penalty rates in law, which means employer groups will continue to try and use Fair Work to cut wages.”