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Byron Shire
April 20, 2021

Penalty-rate changes are Workchoices by stealth: Elliot

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Federal Richmond MP, Labor's Justine Elliot.
Federal Richmond MP, Labor’s Justine Elliot.

Labor Federal Richmond MP Justine Elliot has lashed out at a government proposal to slash penalty rates in the retail and hospitality sectors, saying it will impact unfairly on workers in our region.

The government’s review of workplace relations, which was conducted by the Productivity Commission, ‘shows that the Liberal/Nationals are determined to bring back WorkChoices,’ Ms Elliot said yesterday.

The report makes a number of recommendations, including a two-tier penalty rate system. Under the plan, one group of workers – hospitality and retail – would have their wages cut while frontline emergency workers and nurses would continue to receive the penalty.

But Ms Elliot said it was ‘only a question of time before a Liberal/Nationals government moves on to… nurses, firefighters and others.

‘On the north coast the National Party have a long history of cutting penalty rates and workers’ take home pay,’ she said.

‘Labor will continue to fight these unfair changes and will not support a two-tier penalty rate system.

Ms Elliot said that many locals are employed in the hospitality and the retail sector.

‘They and their families rely on penalty rates to make ends meet.

‘The Abbott government wrote the terms of reference for the review and they specifically directed the commission to focus on penalty rates and the minimum wage. This is a slippery slope to cuts to wages and other conditions.

‘Rather than a race to the bottom on wages, Labor believes the Government should focus on jobs and economic growth through investing in skills and training, infrastructure, innovation and entrepreneurship,’ Ms Elliot said.


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  1. Penalty rates are seeing numerous retail and hospitality businesses shut up on Saturday afternoon and Sunday due to exorbitant costs.

    Just have a look around the area and see how many of these businesses, usually family owned small businesses, are closed during the weekends.

    It is not “Work choices by stealth” but reality hitting home.

  2. Unfortunately, many workers in the hospitality industry aren’t even paid the currently agreed penalty rates and are fearful, as casuals, of losing their jobs if they raise the issue with their employer. The Fair Work ombudsperson needs to ensure payment of these penalty rates rather than leaving it to workers themselves to negotiate the correct payment with employers. Some months ago the ABC exposed a similar situation with regard to foreign, short-term visa workers, but the media, generally, seems unconcerned with exposing the failure to pay workers in the hospitality industry their penalty rates. I can only assume the same could said for those working in the retail industry.

  3. In case there is anyone who doesn’t know,
    There is a slave market alive and well on the North Coast. Known as the ‘Meat Market’ this is the ruse where kids are trapped into a six week trial period and NOT PAID and then the ’employer’ decides to trial a new batch of unpaid hopefuls.
    This situation is encouraged by government and, so called, ‘service providers’.
    The ideal of a ‘fair days pay for a fair days work’ vanished with Hawk’s ‘wage accord’ and will not recover while there is the highest levels of unemployment since the depression and industry is allowed to import workers in order to demolish wages and conditions of Australian workers.

    • Please tell us who these business’s are so we can boycott them. The practice is abhorrent and corosive to our youths self esteem and hope.

  4. Those small businesses whinging about shutting on Saturdays and Sundays do so by choice: bosses of these businesses could work themselves for free and invegel family members to work as a favor for them to “help keep the business afloat”. But instead they prefer to shut up shop and enjoy family time. These people want to keep their family time and employ others at reduced rates to make a profit for them. Not impressed. At the end of the day its all about greed, rather than considering work/life balance and the fact that those willing to work weekends do so because of the penalty rates involved. Those working weekends usually have other commitments so can only work part time. Their take-home pay with penalty is the difference between being able to put food on the table or not.


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