A promise to protect current penalty rates would be the most useful guarantee the Turnbull LNP government could give to Australian workers this Christmas.
Queensland Council of Unions General Secretary Ros McLennan said unions will fight to ensure this year is not the last year for current weekend and penalty rates.
Her call comes as the Fair Work Commission decision prepares to release its decision, expected early in 2017, on cuts to penalty rates for low-paid retail and hospitality workers.
“Penalty rates have existed for decades to compensate workers for the effects that working unsociable hours have on health, family and social life,” said Ms McLennan.
“They are a fair recognition of what workers are required to sacrifice to keep businesses running on weekends and public holidays, especially during Christmas and New Year.”
She said Malcolm Turnbull and more than 60 of his past and current party mates had refused to stand up for current penalty rates for Australia’s lowest paid workers.
“It would be a Christmas miracle if Turnbull put the interests of more than two million retail and hospitality workers ahead of those multi-national corporations that he has promised $50 billion worth of tax cuts,” she said.
“Cutting the wages of low-income workers would take suck billions out of the economy, at a time when the federal Treasurer says that we need wages growth to keep the economy on track,” she said.
“Cutting penalty rates would be a pay cut that workers can’t afford and don’t deserve,” she said.
The QCU has also reminded workers and employers about the need to carefully check pay rates and entitlements for work over the Christmas and New Year public holidays.
Ms McLennan said it was essential for employees and employers to be aware of penalty rates that apply for working on public holidays.
Over this holiday period there are five gazetted public holidays: Christmas Day (Sunday, 25 Dec); Boxing Day (Monday, 26 Dec); the Christmas Day public holiday (Tuesday, 27 Dec); New Years Day (Sunday, 1 Jan); and the New Years Day public holiday (Monday, 2 Jan).
Public holiday pay rates will apply for people working those days, she said.
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.
“Both of these industries are busy during the holiday season,” Ms McLennan said.
“While many Queensland workers are looking forward to a break this festive season, many people will be working, and it’s important they receive the right penalty rates,” she said.
“Many businesses cannot close their doors at this time of year, or choose to stay open, and staff working over the public holidays are entitled to get the penalty rates which apply,” she said.
Correct rates of pay and entitlements can be found at www.fairwork.gov.au/publicholidays