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Workers vow to ramp up campaign to protect penalty rates as Fair Work hearings enter final week

Apr 11, 2016News

Media release, 11 April 2016: Two of Australia’s biggest unions today announced they will ramp up the campaign to protect penalty rates ahead of the Federal election unless the Turnbull Government commits to protecting the take-home pay of Australia’s low paid workers.

Workers took their call to the Federal Government outside the Fair Work Commission in Sydney today, as the final week of hearings in the case to strip weekend workers of their penalty rates began this morning.

United Voice, the hospitality union, and SDA, the union for retail, fast-food and warehouse workers, say the Turnbull Government’s refusal to commit to protect penalty rates is a very worrying sign for low paid hospitality and retail workers who rely on penalty rates to make ends meet.

Quotes attributable to Jo-anne Schofield, National Secretary, United Voice, the hospitality union:

“If the Prime Minister does not commit to retain weekend pay rates workers will ramp up campaigning on this issue in marginal seats across the country.

“Hospitality and retail workers are bitterly disappointed by the Government’s refusal to acknowledge the sacrifices they make so their employers can benefit from weekend trading.  

“Two million people work in the hospitality and retail industries, representing up to 20% of the workforce in some of these marginal seats. They shouldn’t have to fight to protect their already low pay.  

“So far responses from voters have been very, very positive, confirming research which shows that Australians overwhelmingly support the right of workers to be fairly compensated for weekend work.

 “Malcolm Turnbull may pay a high price for putting profits of hospitality and retail bosses ahead of community values and low paid workers.”

Quotes attributable to Gerard Dwyer, National Secretary of the SDA, the union for retail, fast-food and warehouse workers: 

“If the Federal Government won’t publicly back workers, workers will be left with no choice but to ramp up our campaign in the lead up to the Federal Election.  

“So far, the Turnbull Government has refused to commit to maintaining penalty rates for people who work weekends, nights and holidays, despite the clear evidence that cutting penalty rates would hit workers and their families hard.

“The Prime Minister and Employment Minister might be trying to stay quiet on the issue for now, but the fact that many Federal Liberal MPs have said quite clearly that they’d like to axe penalty rates should be a huge concern to Australians.

“We’re not going to take this lightly. A cut to penalty rates would be disastrous for many Australian families, particularly those in lower paid hospitality and retail jobs.”