Penalty rates decision an attack on lowest paid

Unions are alarmed at a decision by the Fair Work Commission which will see the pay packets of the most vulnerable in our working community reduced by 14% on Sundays.

ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver said that the Fair Work Commission has carved out the most vulnerable workers and decided that they are entitled to less.

“As a result of this decision, the lowest paid and most vulnerable workers – often women, students or itinerant workers – in the restaurant industry, who are employed on the minimum wage, will have their wages reduced by around $4 per hour when they work on Sundays – this amounts to a 14% pay cut,” Mr Oliver said.

“These are people who are struggling to make ends meet and none of them can afford this.

“We know that people rely upon penalty rates just to get by and we are concerned that if this decision flows through Australia will end up with a working poor like they have in America.

“In a week when the Federal Budget has put the heaviest burden on those that can least afford it and put the most vulnerable in the firing line, this is another unfair blow.

“You have to ask what sort of society we are becoming when those that are struggling the most are taking the big hits.”

Mr Oliver said that for some time employers have been lining up to call to get rid of penalty rates for workers in this country.

“Employers will do whatever they can to cut the take home pay of hardworking Australians and they’ve got the backing of the Abbott Government to do this,” Mr Oliver said.

“The government has a plan to put the whole workplace system on trial – pay and conditions, rights at work, collective bargaining and unfair dismissal and now the wage safety net.

“The last time the Coalition was in Government they put in WorkChoices, the most radical change to our industrial relations system in 100 years.

“The Government has put its public view that Australian wages and conditions are too high, and too generous, and they have blamed workers for the loss of jobs going overseas.

“The Productivity Commission review will be the platform by which the Government can change the laws that protect Australian workers and make it easier for business to cut take home pay.”

Mr Oliver said the employers heralding this decision have ignored the fact that the Commission found that there is justification for additional remuneration for those that work on Sunday and that it should continue.

“The weekend is still an important time to spend with family and friends and penalty rates remain appropriate compensation for working unsociable hours,” he said.

Download this media release from the ACTU: Penalty rates

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