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Threat to penalty rates under spotlight at the Ekka

14 August 2013 By ACTU

ACTU president Ged Kearney joins workers at People's Day at the Exhibition in Brisbane today to urge the Coalition to stop siding only with business on penalty rates - there are two sides to the story.

Ms Kearney said the multi-billion dollar attack on people's wages would not only be detrimental to workers relying on penalty rates, it would devalue family time.

"We have a conga line of business chiefs lining up to say that an hour worked at midnight or on a Sunday afternoon or a public holiday should be paid at the same rate as a normal working hour," Ms Kearney said.

"That's simply unfair. I'm here at the Ekka today where people are hard at work making this is a top-notch festival and they deserve to be paid a bit extra for missing out on the public day off.

"Across Queensland, many others are working today – whether in shops, hospitals, fire stations or call centres – keeping the state ticking.

"Many of these workers are earning penalty rates today, either through their awards or through a collective agreement negotiated by their union. That's something that should be valued. We can't let business cut their well-deserved penalty rates.

"We estimate that across Australia, at least 4.6 million workers – nearly half the workforce – are entitled to penalty rates if they work on public holidays. Nearly as many are entitled to earn penalty rates on weekends.

"Nearly thirty per cent of the year is made up of weekends and public holidays. Add early mornings and late evenings and that's a lot of people who will face a pay cut.

Ms Kearney said that Tony Abbott had told a business conference last year that he felt their pain on having to pay penalty rates on the weekends.

"Despite business saying they will use the windfall they will receive from cutting penalty rates to reinvest there is no evidence of this and we would need to take them on their word."

"That's simply too big a risk for workers and unfortunately the Coalition do not seem to understand the cost of living pressures workers face.

"The Coalition does not want to admit its plans for penalty rates, so it has hidden them in the guise of a 'review'. If they win Government they've promised an inquiry of work laws by the Productivity Commission, giving business a platform to push their anti-penalty rates agenda.

"It's worrying that the Coalition has refused to release the terms of reference of the inquiry," she said.

ACTU-commissioned polling released today shows that almost 50 per cent of workers believe a Coalition government would cut penalty rates and award conditions.

Media Contact: Eleni Hale 0418 793 885 or Ben Ruse 0409 510 879

Contact Details
Name: David Smith, ASU National Secretary
Telephone: 03 9342 1400
More info: ASU Federal Election 2013 Resources Webpage