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Issue #1679      April 1, 2015

Working on weekends: sacrifice and necessity

As Parliament prepares to debate a Bill which would allow employers to force workers to trade off penalty rates and other conditions, the United Voice union has released its members’ submission to the Productivity Commission in defence of the Australian weekend.

Photo: Craig Greer

The United Voice submission to the Commission’s Inquiry into Australia’s workplace relations system recommends Inquiry Commissioners spend at least two weekends working alongside the union’s members.

United Voice members work in diverse industries including aged care, cleaning, early childhood education and care, hospitality, healthcare, security, emergency services and manufacturing.

National secretary David O’Byrne says, “Workers across Australia are deeply concerned at the prospect of changes to penalty rates and erosion of the safety net.

“Statement after statement by our members reveals the critical role of penalty rates in their economic survival.”

“With three children, working weekends is my only option for our household to survive. To be working in an industry that operates 24/7 – weekends being the busiest time – I have sacrificed on children’s birthdays, family functions and sports just to make ends meet. Penalty rates have helped tremendously. Take penalty rates away and it means more time away from my children and day care that we simply cannot afford.”- Naomi, Casino worker, NSW

“United Voice members are well aware of employers’ push to get rid of penalty rates,” said Mr O’Byrne. “They know the government’s weasel words on penalty rates and workplace relations mask a determination to look after their employer allies.

“Our members deserve better. They are the backbone of our community. They work around the clock to ensure our community is safe, cared for, educated, fed and entertained.

“The government should be supporting these workers, not undermining them at every opportunity.”

The union’s other recommendations to the Productivity Commission are:

  • Given recent commentary by the Minister for Employment that penalty rates will not be considered as part of this Inquiry, that the Productivity Commission write to the Treasurer seeking clarification and an amended Terms of Reference.
  • That any consideration of changes to minimum wage rates and conditions take into consideration the current inadequacies of the safety net as evidenced by United Voice members in this submission.
  • That the Commission explicitly rules out considering income from tips in its findings.
  • That the Commission undertakes analysis into the historic benefit that the Australian economy has derived from penalty rates.

Next article – Mental health sector call on PM for certainty of funding

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