Thousands face penalty rate pay cuts

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Bill Shorten has vowed to protect worker’s pay if the Fair Work Commission reduces Sunday penalty rates.

If you rely on penalty rates, your wallet could be a lot lighter after today.

THOUSANDS of workers could have their pay packets slashed by double digits today if the officials decide to cut penalty rates.

Retail and hospitality workers will find out on whether their weekend penalty rates will be slashed when a long-awaited Fair Work Commission decision is handed down in Melbourne at 11am.

The commission is considering a proposal to bring the Sunday rate in line with the lower Saturday rate — one of several workplace relations recommendations made by the Productivity Commission last year.

Prime Malcolm Turnbull said he will accept the decision of the independent umpire on penalty rates while Labor remains concerned it comes at the wrong time for working families.

Labor workplace spokesman Brendan O’Connor warned pay packets are already under stress, growing at a record-low rate of 1.9 per cent.

Mr O’Connor said instead of knuckling down to tackle the problem, the prime minister wants to abolish or cut penalty rates.

In the December quarter, private sector seasonally adjusted wages grew 0.4 per cent. In the public sector, wages did little better, growing 0.6 per cent for the quarter.

Annual wages growth has now been flat or falling since June 2014.

Business groups said the commission must balance the interests of employed people with those seeking work, as well as business operators and consumers.

They argue adjusting penalty rates will allow small businesses to offer more work and better meet the needs of customers.

The ACTU said the government could have intervened to protect penalty rates. However it did not do so and at the same time had failed to tackle the overuse of casual workers and short-term contracting, abuse of the labour hire system and exploitation of migrant workers.

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