If you work in hospitality, retail or fast-food, there’s a fair chance your weekend doesn’t start until Monday. See, that’s the whole ~penalty~ of having to labour behind a coffee machine, beer-tap or deep fryer while the rest of the world sleeps in, goes to church and/or kicks on at a mate’s place: every Saturday and Sunday, you’re stuck working for the man.
Which is why it seems reasonable that there would be penalty rates in place to compensate those who do end up working on the national days of rest; and why, by extension, the Fair Work Commission had a faaair bit of shit flung its way back in February when it announced that it was cutting weekend penalty rates.
Well good news, weekend wage earners (sort of): those cutbacks won’t be taking full effect until 2019/2020.
The Fair Work Commission ruled today that reductions to existing penalty rates will be phased in gradually over the next four years, with initial cuts of a meagre five per cent beginning this year.
And oh boy, has it got the blood of retailers and publicans boiling.
“Retailers wanted this phased in much more quickly so we can get on with the job of employing more people,” said Russel Zimmerman, head of the Australian Retailers’ Association. “What this will do is create an incredible amount of extra work for retailers, who won’t be able to employ more people as quickly as they would like.”
Full-time and part-time workers in retail and pharmacy will now see their Sunday rates cut from double-time down to time-and-a-half over the course of the next four years; while fast-food employees and hospitality workers will have their Sunday rates gradually cut back from time-and-a-half and time-and-three-quarters, respectively, over the next three years.
It’s a small victory for thousands of Australian workers who just a few months ago were facing the risk of having the floor pulled out from under them.
For many, however – such as the trade unions who have been fighting to have the cutbacks turfed altogether – the slow burn rather than the flash in the pan is still too small a consolation. Nor is opposition leader Bill Shorten ready to celebrate what he considers an altogether insignificant development.
“This is an appalling decision and comes at a time when wages are falling in real terms,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if the cuts are phased in over two or three years, the damage is the same – people will be losing real money.
“The solution is simple – these cuts can be stopped if Malcolm Turnbull supports Labor’s legislation to do so.”
Source: Sydney Morning Herald
Feature image: Huffington Post