Unions ask candidates to commit to penalty rates

The ACTU has written to all Liberal federal election candidates asking if they will commit to retaining penalty rates if they are elected after senior Liberals suggested there would be post-election cuts.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said unions were reaching out to Liberal candidates as senior party officials were suggesting a Coalition Government would back a post-election assault on penalty rates by business.

In the past week both shadow IR minister Eric Abetz and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott have suggested a Coalition government would back an employer push to slash penalty rates.

Meanwhile shadow employment participation minister Sussan Ley has told businesses in her electorate a Coalition Government would ‘energetically’ support cuts to weekend penalty rates.

Workers are concerned about the future of penalty rates if the Coalition wins government, said Ms Kearney. “Tony Abbott does not want to talk about industrial relations in this campaign or the pressure he is under from big business to remove penalty rates, but evidence of his plans is stacking up.

“Business groups like the Retailers’ Association tried to use Fair Work Australia to cut penalty rates earlier this year but were knocked back. They have said they’ll try again, with what appears to be the tacit encouragement of the Coalition.

“When asked directly whether they would support an application to the Fair Work Commission from employers to cut penalty rates Mr Abetz, Mr Abbott and now Ms Ley have suggested they would back employers in.

“Mr Abetz also says the Coalition would block pay rises above inflation unless trade offs were made in the name of productivity – code for cutting conditions like penalty rates.

“Meanwhile the Coalition has promised a review of the Fair Work Act by the Productivity Commission if it wins the election – but has refused to release the terms of reference or guarantee that penalty rates will be off the table.

“If we have a Federal Government that is not prepared to stand up for penalty rates, workers’ take-home pay will be cut.

“Our letter to Coalition candidates and MPs reminds them that many hard-working people in their electorate rely on penalty rates, and that many of their local businesses rely on the extra spending power penalty rates give to workers.”


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