Penalty rate cuts to hurt thousands of families in regional Queensland

Workers in regional Queensland will lose almost $150 million a year in disposable income a year due the Turnbull Government’s decision to support cutting penalty rates – according to new analysis by the McKell Institute released today.

The Unfair Burden: The Impact of Sunday Penalty Rate Reductions on Regional and Rural Australia report finds that workers in nine rural and regional electorates in Queensland are more likely to rely upon retail, hospitality, pharmacy and fast food jobs, and they are paid less on average than the same workers in Australia’s major cities.

It is estimated that 61,000 workers in regional areas of Queensland will lose an average of $2,381 each – more than $146,280,000 in total each year.

Queensland Council of Unions General Secretary Ros McLennan said the report demonstrated three ways that rural and regional Australia, in particular, will be negatively impacted by a reduction in penalty rates.

“Rural and regional Australia has a higher proportion of retail and hospitality workers than our major cities, particularly in a decentralised state like Queensland,” Ms McLennan said.

Leichhardt in northern Queensland around Cairns will be the regional electorate worst-affected in Australia by the cuts to penalty rates, according to the research.

“Workers in regional Queensland already earn less than their counterparts in the south-east corner, so they will be hit even harder,” she said.

“And finally, where workers are employed by firms that are not locally-owned, any cuts to their pay are likely to be taken out of the electorate – usually to Sydney or Melbourne.”

Unions are planning further public activities in regional Queensland to push local Coalition MPs to change stance on penalty rates.

Ms McLennan called on those members in LNP-held electorates to change their vote.

“Federal Parliament will soon debate a motion to overturn the cuts to penalty rates. Only one vote is needed to cross the floor to end these cuts and save more than 60,000 Queensland families from copping a reduction in their income,” said Ms McLennan.

“These MPs have the power to stand up for their communities and stop these cuts. “Cutting penalty rates would be the single largest pay cut since the Great Depression. “It’s a wage cut that they can’t afford and they don’t deserve,” she said.

“Australians have always been about a fair go, that’s why the people who work when most of us enjoy family time are compensated for it – a boost that keeps food on the table and pays the bills.

“There’s absolutely no evidence that it would create one single new job, and research shows almost 60 per cent of Australians disapprove of cutting Sunday penalty rates.”

The McKell Institute Report is available at https://mckellinstitute.org.au/app/uploads/The-McKell-Institute-Unfair-Burden.pdf

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