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Issue #1691      July 1, 2015


Hospitality sector employers are among the most vocal about penalty rate cuts. They are making final submissions to the Fair Work Commission calling for cuts to penalty rates and have campaigned vigorously on the issue. However Fair Work ombudsman Natalie James has found that more than 2,700 restaurant, café and catering workers have been underpaid $1.2 million in wages. The report found just 42 percent of businesses complied with their workforce obligations and 17 percent of 879 “errors” related to weekend penalties. The hospitality sector is not renowned for its generosity to its workforce, many of whom are young and low-skilled employees. The majority of errors related to wage entitlements as employers were paying flat rates for all hours worked, which often is not enough to cover penalties, loading and overtime. More than $386,000 was recouped in Victoria alone for 698 employees there. ”Not only is the hospitality industry actively campaigning to cut weekend and penalty rates, now we find out a huge number of employers are not even paying them in the first place,” commented ACTU president Ged Kearney.

According to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, almost 30,000 people in NSW are homeless, an increase by 20 percent since 2006. Skyrocketing Sydney rents force tenants into arrears, according to Vinnies. Evidence collected by Vinnies shows the housing crisis is now affecting people on low incomes or in casual employment. Vinnies chief executive is greatly concerned with the rise of first-time homelessness. “We are seeing a much greater increase in first-time homelessness of people on low incomes who have a life event that causes financial difficulty and suddenly they are in arrears with their rent with no hope of catching up… What’s missing in the debate about the affordability crisis is the human impact. The sharp end is not young people missing out on mortgages, it’s families and individuals who are locked out of any sort of housing,” he said. State and federal governments seem to be deaf and blind when it comes to public housing or finding any solution for the people in need.

“We are not going to sit and be nice little ladies,” said Clare Forbes, co-chairwoman of Grandmothers Against Detention of Refugee Children. A group of determined and “outraged” grandmothers took part in the Melbourne action to mark World Refugee Day. Ms Forbes said the members came to Melbourne’s City Square rally from as far away as Bendigo. “We are outraged at the thought of children being kept in detention and we are determined not to be silent until children and their families are released from detention,” Ms Forbes said. Earlier, about a hundred people gathered outside the Liberal Party’s headquarters in the city to demand the closure of the Nauru and Manus Island detention centres.

Next article – Region Briefs

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