Feb 24, 2017

Nuance won’t cut it on penalty rates onslaught

The Fair Work Commission's attack on penalty rates will only reinforce Labor's narrative of a government hell-bent on attacking low-income earners.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

There's an awful lot of nuance around the Fair Work Commission's attack on penalty rates. The rationale of the commission, echoing the Productivity Commission, is that Sundays aren't so different from Saturday anymore, so why have an outdated, special Sunday penalty rate? But it also recognises that low-income earners will be screwed over by its decision and there needs to be sort of "transition". Then there is the nuance of the government insisting the decision is basically the fault of Bill Shorten because he initiated the penalty rates review when in government, and that the commission is the "independent umpire". And finally the nuance of Labor going to the trouble of preparing a response to the decision with "real people" affected by the decision, only to screw up the detail and embarrass themselves.

None of the nuance matters politically, and none of it matters economically. Money is fungible, and the rationale about Sundays versus Saturdays is irrelevant. The money a waitress earns on a public holiday or a shop assistant earns on a Sunday doesn't go into a special pot that dictates its expenditure. It's income -- and the decision, if implemented by employers, means a cut in income, for some of Australia's lowest paid, all on the promise that somehow there'll be more jobs and more hours. Basically, they'll have to work more for the same income, or make do with less.

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21 thoughts on “Nuance won’t cut it on penalty rates onslaught

  1. old greybearded one

    The coalition wasn’t there, it didn’t need to be. Turnbull’s owners were there though. A collection of overpaid miserable swine. A disaster for those trying to get a uni degree, or a few bucks extra. We should take 25% off their pay. For some it is their only income.

  2. John Hall

    Nothing like robbing the poor to give to the rich. What a wonderful boost to our economy and equality. Make Australia Grate Again.

  3. Marion Wilson

    It’s so easy to screw the working poor. They have neither time nor money to fight back or demand a better deal. They just have to suck it up and tighten their belts. Most of them haven’t joined a Union because they need every cent they earn to just exist. Union membership has been a luxury beyond their budgets. Will they now work longer hours to get the same money or reduce spending? There isn’t going to be a desperation-led recovery for the Sunday morning coffee shops. Or are we expected to tip more to make up the short pay?

    1. Bob the builder

      Rubbish. They haven’t joined a union, because they have a proven record of being remote and worse, useless. I have, on principle, been a union member all my working life, but I find it really hard to justify it except on the most abstract principles.

  4. klewso

    I can’t wait to see the proceeds, from this, go to the boost in employment promised – rather than going to profits and pay down debt?
    My main concern is will people safely ensconced behind locked doors in retirement villages be safe from employers looking to shanghai workers to fill all these jobs?
    …. Or was that all just cant hyperbolic Employer Union crap, used to justify a cut in wages?

    1. Tom Thumb

      I personally hope that baby boomer retirees in nursing homes get royally f..ked over by the low paid staff who have grown up in the Dickensian working world the Boomers created

  5. Graeski

    It’s going to put more dollars in the pockets of a whole heap of small business people. It won’t create any more jobs – that’s total rubbish. The business owners will pocket every cent they can for themselves.

    But that means those small business owners will be even more strongly rusted on to the LNP, and more donations and votes will flow in the LNP’s direction. That’s all it’s ever about.

  6. Woopwoop

    While I’m sympathetic to these low-paid workers, I was appalled to hear during the debate on this issue that shift workers who work overnight have even lower hourly rates than Sunday workers. Is this true? Shift work is even more destructive of family and social life, and specially of health.

    1. Roberto

      Night shift 15 % loading, Sunday shift 100%, never made sense to me in a 24/7/356 rotating roster job, particularly since on Sundays the boss wasn’t around. From time to time there was a call to reduce the weekend rate and increase the night shift rate, but the wage would have been the same. Different for non unionised hospitality workers I guess, who can’t negotiate an enterprise agreement.

    2. Bob the builder

      Well, the obvious thing to do is to increase the night-shift loading drastically. Night-shift work is terrible for health, social and family life.

      1. Tom Thumb

        Far too many government jobs that involve night shifts such as nursing, prisons etc for governments of any stripe to ever legislate to pay those workers more in penalties

  7. AR

    This should be another demonstrtion of the basic mendacity of the tory swine – like carbon price increasing electricity costs/abolition being $500 in the lkick for the average family, the $100 roast, the evaporation of Whyalla and the oodles of new jobs and increased hours for the newly enfeudalised.
    Could we have a “Spot the W/E Surcharge Disappearance” sign in a your local, smashed avocado cafe or the waves of newly employed service staff?

  8. Glenn Turton

    My argument when Labor went soft on Turnbull and his money wasn’t that he had it. Good on him. But money in the Cayman’s? How has this not been followed up by media and the opposition? I don’t begrudge any individual or company making money if they pay their fair share. Has Malcolm?

  9. Alex

    Some of the comments criticising the lowering of penalty rates are totally without logic.
    If it is considered that working on Saturdays and/or Sundays is a burden because it interferes with the social aspect of the family sitting around the kitchen table for the lunch-time roast then fair enough, but enough already of the poor low paid and students’ doing it tough argument.
    Yes, many students do get by on a shoestring and many people need more income just to have the basic necessities of life (apparently, these days, very subjective). However, if one puts aside the possibility that some people are inconvenienced by having to work on a Saturday or Sunday, neither of the aforementioned facts justify paying them more than the normal award.
    The fact that a person is poor, in itself, does not justify paying them more for a certain job than a person who is not poor. The fact that a person is a student does not, in itself, justify paying them more than one who is not a student (been there, done that). The fact that someone only works on a Sunday and has no work, or doesn’t want to work, any other time does not justify paying them more than someone who works only on a Wednesday. People who do shift work have there lives disrupted far more and yet get paid far less so, make weekend rates the same a shift work rates. The same people will still get the jobs if they want them but, will not be paid ridiculous loadings.
    I agree that the employers will probably pocket the difference, the coffee will not get cheaper on Sunday, and the government may not collect as much tax and less will be passed on to other businesses through purchases. But, that does not logically justify a loading on Saturday or Sunday, only the social inconvenience does that.

    1. Marion Wilson

      Alex your argument might appear logical except that we are adamant that for some people the penalty rates must not be cut. We are adamant that we must continue to pay nurses and police penalty rates because weekends and shifts are anti-social and disruptive of family life and those who work in these relatively well paid employment must be compensated accordingly. Weekends are sacred for Bankers, Stockbrokers, business executives, politicians and Post Masters? These people are to be paid less because they are not as good as us.

      1. Alex

        Re Marion Wilson’s reply to my post. My post does not ‘appear logical’, it is logical. The fact that you are adamant about your opinion does not make it any less so. In any case, I have not disagreed with what I think your confusing post means as I agreed with the anti-social nature of shift work and stated in my last sentence that workers should be compensated for ‘anti-social’ work schedules. You write, “we are adamant”. Are you formally speaking on behalf of a particular group? And, did you write your last 2 sentences as you intended?

        1. Matt Hardin

          Your post is logical, the reason the “struggling student” type examples are given is to allow people to imagine being in the situation and to also get them to realise that the amounts of money involved while small fir full time employed professionals is large for low wage earners.

          They are trying to invoke empathy.

    2. Dog's Breakfast

      Alex, your point might appear logical, but misses the point.

      It’s about inconvenience, the fact that people don’t get to spend time with their kids working Saturday or Sunday, or take them to sport, or go to church (in days gone by).

      It misses the entire history of why penalty rates were paid in the first place, but other than that, it has an inherent logic, other than missing the point entirely.

      I would advocate strongly that this commission should have found that night shift was woefully underpaid with the 15% loading. Night shift makes weekend work look like a doddle.

  10. Dog's Breakfast

    This shows how much running a business is divorced from, and incapable of understanding, how to run an economy, or god forbid, a society.

    They have no idea that lowering wages will actually detract from their profits.

    It’s almost axiomatic that the best thing that could be done economically is to increase the wages of the lower paid, reduce taxes for lower paid, increase taxes for higher paid and the wealthy, reduce business tax write offs and increase interest rates.

    Almost exactly the opposite of what the Business Community wants.

    1. klewso

      Agreed, you can’t run an economy like a business – because not everyone can afford your product. Profits discriminate against the less well-off (how can they go without the essentials provided by government?) of which there’s a growing number.
      And those who love to compare “The Demon Deficit” to household budgets – have never had/heard of, a mortgage?

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