Hey Australia, Your Penalty Rates May Be Under Threat

Hey, all you rich dicks pulling down sweet, sweet bucks from your lucrative bar and restaurant jobs and flaunting your wads of cash in front of the little people – the man is onto you, and you won’t be on that gravy train for much longer. A campaign to abolish weekend and public holiday penalty rates is gathering steam, with particular focus on the hospitality industry.
The Sydney Morning Herald report that submissions to the Fair Work Commission’s review of minimum wage conditions have highlighted a desire from some business groups for “greater flexibility” and “lower costs in the face of tough trading conditions.” The Commission is currently in the process of examining award and penalty rates across various sectors.
In its submission, the Restaurant & Catering Association argued that late night loading, which entitles workers to an extra 10 to 15 percent per hour, “should be stripped from the award.” Alongside this, there is also a push to impose standardised Saturday and Sunday penalty rates across the hospitality industry. 
“We are not arguing there shouldn’t be penalty rates, because the legislation says there has to be,” said John Hart of the Restaurant & Catering Association, presumably while trying to stifle a smirk. “It is now about arguing the quantum.” There is a push to bring down penalty rates on Sundays, as many restaurant and catering businesses shut on these days, citing high wages.
Many other business groups are also targeting penalty rate reductions, from the Accommodation Association to the Master Grocers Association, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and Clubs Australia. Major brick-maker Brickworks is one of few companies to make a direct submission, pushing for 4am starts for its workers, without penalties, and an abolition of weekend penalty rates.
Many Liberal party members have asked Prime Minister Tony Abbott to take a look at “job killing” penalty rates. NSW Liberal MP Craig Kelly recently claimed that high wages are hurting Australian retail, saying“the last thing we want to do is cut people’s wages, but we also don’t want a situation where people aren’t being employed because of penalty rates.”
Before the last election, Abbott promised that the government would not touch penalty rates, and he has so far been true to his word. “There’s nothing to stop a business organisation taking an application to the Fair Work Commission,” he said at the time, “and the FWC will adjudicate on that.”
The ACTU have promised to “strongly defend” the current penalty rates. The Fair Work Commission’s review is ongoing.

Photo: William West via Getty Images