Penalty rate cut: Hunter unions slam decision as ‘going backwards’ but business lobby sees opportunities

12/12/2018 Posted by admin

GOING RATE: Peppi Burrows, left, worries about a penalty rate cut but James Conway sees the opportunities for business. Picture: Jonathon Carroll HUNTER unions haveslammed a shock Fair Work Commission ruling to slash Sunday penalty rates as “going backwards”, and urgedworkers who fear they will be taken advantage of by their employer to speak out.

But as the union movement was decrying Thursday’s decision to scale back Sunday rates as “the biggest rate cut since the Great Depression”, the Hunter’s business community was more optimistic, describing the landmark ruling as an opportunityfor small business to employ more people and kick-start fledgling economies.

Much of Thursday’s ruling will be felt in June, when full-time and part-time workers in the retail, fast food, hospitality and pharmacy industries will take home less pay for working on Sundays than they do now.

Full-time and part-time workers in retail will have their Sunday penalty rates dropped from 200 per cent to 150 per cent of their standard hourly rate, while casuals will go from 200 per cent to 175 per cent. Hospitality employees will face a reduction in Sunday pay from 175 per cent to 150 per cent, while casual hospitality workers’ pay will remain unchanged. Fast-food employees’ Sunday rates will go from 150 per cent to 125 per cent for full-time and part-time staff, and casuals will go from 200 per cent to 175 per cent.

Hunter Workers secretaryDaniel Wallace feared the changes would lead to reduced quality of service. He pointed out that theruling exempted the more experienced level two and three workers from the rate cut.

“It’s always cheaper to hire someone with no skills …and, as we have seen elsewhere, the level of service comes down,” Mr Wallace said. “With this, we’re going backwards.”

Hunter Business Chamber chief executive Bob Hawes said he respected “all manner of views” on penalty rates, but refuted “diabolical predictions”.

Mr Hawes instead forecast that many small businesses would use the savings to hire more staff.

“Whether it’spenalty rates, an electricity bill or any other input – it all makes a difference, and that leads to more employment opportunities, which is good, particularlyfor regional areas where youth unemployment is an issue,” he said.

The decision spared cafes and restaurants, which are on a different award to hospitality, but many of the young workers on Darby Street in Cooks Hill on Thursday still feared they were sitting ducks.

Peppi Burrows, a barista at Haywire on Darby coffee shop, said workers deserved compensation for working Sundays.

“That was the whole idea of penalty rates in the first place,” he said.

“I’m thinking of the people who are going to be really affected by this; the people who relied on it just to get by.”

His boss, James Conway, saw the opportunities.

“It might mean more staff on Sundays than usual,” he said.

Comments are closed.