Queensland workers need a pay rise, not a pay cut

Queensland Unions have welcomed the Labor Party’s firm commitment to protecting the wages of millions of workers who sacrifice their weekends for the benefit of our economy.

Queensland Council of Unions General Secretary Ros McLennan today said employer groups have been on a relentless attack of weekend penalty rates, all in a bid to increase profits at the expense of workers’ take home pay.

“The QCU welcomes Labor’s recognition of the importance of weekend penalty rates through its commitment to protecting working people’s take home pay,” she said.

“Queensland workers need a pay rise, not a pay cut, and regardless of how employers or the Turnbull government might try to spin it, reducing penalty rates is a pay cut,” she said.

Federal Labor leader Bill Shorten’s announcement today in Canberra contrasts with the demands to cut Sunday penalty rates made by rich people holidaying on yachts.

Mr Shorten has put people’s wages above corporate greed, recognising that many Queensland and Australian families rely on weekend penalty rates to survive.

At a time when wages are stagnating, employers are trying everything to cut wages even further, Ms McLennan said.

“Cutting penalty rates, the termination of enterprise agreements, insecure contracts, erosion of working conditions and increased job insecurity are all making life harder and harder for working Australians.”

In Queensland alone, cutting the wages of 400,000 retail and hospitality workers would rip an estimated $1.2 billion annually from the state’s economy.

She said the announcement today that Labor will move to change the laws to protect workers’ pay is an important step in the right direction.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show almost 260,000 Queenslanders are employed in the retail trade, while around 168,000 work in hospitality and food services.

“There are more than 400,000 Queenslanders working across the retail and hospitality sector, most of whom rely on award wages and conditions. If Sunday penalty rates are cut, those Queensland low-paid workers already struggling will have their living standards further eroded,” she said.

“The attack on Sunday penalty rates in the retail and hospitality sector will be the first domino to fall if the Fair Work Commission decides that Sunday rates can be cut.”

Ms McLennan echoed ACTU concerns that similar attacks on other sectors would soon follow.

“Mr Shorten’s clear commitment to act to protect take home pay means that extra money from working weekends is protected,” she said.

“This is a stark contrast to Malcolm Turnbull’s out-of-touch attitude to protecting retail and hospitality from the single largest pay cut in Australia’s history.

“The conversation needs to be changed; workers’ wages need to be grown and protected, not attacked and cut at any opportunity.”