Australian unions have hit back against a campaign by the accommodation industry for reform of Australia’s industrial relations system, and in particular, reform of penalty rates.
Just before Easter, the accommodation industry pointed out that services in the industry would be cut over Easter weekend because of “excessive” penalty rates. See: Accommodation industry hits out at Easter penalty rates
Unions, however, insist that paying Easter penalty rates doesn’t hurt business. They accuse employer groups of subjecting Australians to a false and misleading campaign about penalty rates in the lead up to Easter.
“Despite no evidence to support their claims, employers in the growing sectors of retail and hospitality are calling for penalty rates for working over the Easter break to be cut, citing undue pressure on business,” a union statement said.
ACTU president Ged Kearney said Australian workers who gave up their family time to work over Easter should be compensated for that.
The business community, “backed by the Abbott Government”, had used the Easter break “as justification to attack penalty rates by saying it’s unaffordable to hire more workers,” Kearney said.
“The truth is the share of business income going to wages in retail and hospitality has fallen in recent years. There is no evidence this will create new jobs, but plenty of evidence it will hurt low-paid workers.
“We know most retail and hospitality workers are paid less than Full Time Average Weekly Total Earnings and working over the Easter break allows them extra disposable income to spend in shops and cafés – the very businesses that are driving this attack.
“Cutting penalty rates have nothing to do with job creation or productivity – it is about cutting people’s pay packets and disposable income.”
Unions say Australians overwhelmingly support workers being paid penalty rates when they give up their weekends, nights and public holidays.
Australian unions have launched a petition calling on the Federal Government to protect penalty rates by excluding them from the Productivity Commission inquiry into workplace relations and other government inquiries.
They say these are the key facts:
- Total wages share in food and accommodation was 78% in 2013-14, down from a peak of 87% in 1997-98. In retail, the wages share has fallen from a peak of 79% in 1997-98 to just 73% in 2013-14.
- The level 4 rate of pay in the General Retail, Restaurants and Hospitality Awards is $746.20. Full Time Adult Average Weekly Total Earnings as at 14 November was $1,539.40 (ABS 6302).
- 97% of Australians think that the weekend is important for families (Galaxy Research 2012).
- A Fair Work Commission decision on the Restaurant Industry Award in May 2014 found that it did not consider Sunday penalty rates to “have economy-wide effects” as the industry has grown strongly since the Award commenced.
- In 1997, 69.7% of Australians had jobs from Monday to Friday. In 2012 that figure was 68.9%.
Written by Peter Needham