Some Part-Time Workers Could Lose Their Overtime Rates If The Morrison Government Gets Its Way

Hospitality workers on part-time hours could lose out on overtime rates under a massive reform to Australia’s industrial relations laws, and a union chief says the proposed legislation could dud workers across the country.

The Guardian reports a wide-reaching shakeup to employment regulations, put forward by the Morrison Government, could impact 12 industry awards in the accommodation, dining, and retail sectors.

The proposal works like this: employers would be free to offer part-time workers extra shifts on top of their scheduled roster, with those bonus shifts attracting the standard rate of pay. The government believes this would make life easier for part-timers who want to take on more hours over their mandated shifts. Industrial Relations Minister and Attorney-General Christian Porter (yes, that Christian Porter) also hopes the fix will somehow address underemployment.

Some guidelines will come into play. Eligible workers must work more than 16 hours weekly, but fewer than 38. Each extra shift must be a minimum of three hours. There must also be a record of an agreement between employee and boss regarding the shifts, too, even if that ‘record’ is a text message or email.

The trade-off is that those part-timers would forfeit their existing rights to overtime rates. Fair Work Australia lists a whole slew of penalty rate considerations for folks who work in those fields, and the proposed legislation appears to wipe many of those slates clean (specific penalty rates for evenings, public holidays, and weekends will remain unaffected, The Guardian notes).

If that sounds like Casual Work Plus to you, you’re not alone. Australian Council of Trade Unions boss Sally McManus, who yesterday savaged the entire bill as an “attack on workers”, has previously slammed the premise of slashing overtime considerations for part-time employees.

Her argument boils down to this: even if part-time workers are permitted to work more thanks to the new rules, they’d take home less overall thanks to overtime rates being nixed.

The proposed legislation also includes new penalties for employers found to have engaged in wage theft, which remains a disgustingly widespread issue.

But McManus has also challenged those tweaks. She yesterday told the ABC she understood the bar for criminal liability would be raised under the new laws, making it “impossible for an employer, even if they do something really bad to face a jail term.”

Just an awesome time to work in Australia all-around, really.