A rally in Melbourne today will be held in protest against employer groups' continued efforts to attack the wages of low paid workers. The ASU and unions argue that assaults on penalty rates don't just drive down the living standards of those who currently earn them, but will have adverse effects on the economy as a whole with much less disposable income available to those who need to spend it to make ends meet.
The rally today comes as the Fair Work Commission is reviewing weekend penalty rates and today hospitality workers will give evidence explaining why any change is simply a pay cut that they can't afford and don't deserve.
Today in Melbourne is also the Productivity Commission's final public hearing with unions responding to its anti-worker recommendations including an attack on penalty rates.
Lowering wages has a significant flow on effect, especially for low paid workers such as those in hospitality and other industries, who could find their wages slashed despite many earning nearly half the average Australian income of $1480.
By working Sundays and public holidays these workers give up time with the families – they also rely on penalty rates to pay bills, buy groceries and afford living expenses.
The push by employers to lower the pay-packets of workers is nothing more than a bid to boost profits – it is simply a raid on people's wages.
The Productivity Commission's attack on penalty rates would result in a two-tiered workplace system with Sunday rates to be cut for thousands of Australians who work in restaurants, cafes and shops - and potentially many other workplaces given the vague definitions provided in their Draft Report.
In fact, in a little aired part of the Productivity Commission's Draft Report, they recommend reviewing all work in relation to penalty rates, not merely leaving it to the vague dichotomy that they did describe of hospitality/retail penalty rates to be cut and emergency services penalty rates to be protected. Tens of thousands of ASU members could fit in one or the other category, or both, and then all the places in between.
There is no evidence to show that cutting penalty rates increases employment or productivity and Unions will strongly oppose this attack.
Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver:
"This is a cash grab by employers who simply want to keep wages low."
"Cutting penalty rates has nothing to do with job creation or productivity - it is about cutting people's pay packets."
"We want a country that gives everyone a fair go, dignity and a right to a reasonable and decent quality of living and that includes fair remuneration for those who work unsociable hours."
Quotes attributable to Jess Walsh, United Voice Victorian Secretary:
"Today people from across the community will march in support of hospitality workers, telling employers and politicians loudly that weekends still mean something and the community supports weekend penalty rates.
"Hospitality workers earn about half of the average weekly wage. Evening and weekend penalty rates are about $100 a week and mean they can buy groceries or pay their rent. That's what's at stake here – our members risk losing an essential part of their family budget."
"Our members also want to send a message to new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that he should not be supporting the employer's campaign which will mean a pay cut for some of Australia's lowest paid workers."
Media contact: Julie-Anne Davies 0418 793 885 and United Voice: Tim Petterson 0438 399 973