Lismore City councillor Eddie Lloyd has made an impassioned plea to Page MP Kevin Hogan (Nationals) to protect Sunday and public holiday penalty rates.
And she has launched a petition so members of his electorate, who she says would be disproportionately disadvantaged by the changes, can voice their opposition to the government move.
Ms Lloyd described the Fair Work Commission’s decision to slash the wages of workers in the fast food, retail and pharmacy sectors as ‘a massive blow to the northern rivers region.’
Lowest paid workers
Ms Lloyd said that while the council had no power to change the rules, she is speaking up ‘because Kevin Hogan isn’t saying anything.’
‘He’s not standing up for his community – somebody has to. I’m down there every day talking to the community and I treat my position as a community representative very seriously. And if there are concerns… that the local federal MP is not taking up then I have to say something,’ she told Echonetdaily.
‘The people affected by this appalling decision are overwhelmingly low-paid casual workers – the very people who can least afford to have their wages cut,’ she said.
‘It’s a very big issue that is affecting thousands of people. Our electorate has actually got a higher rate of employees of the retail and hospitality industry compared to the rest of Australia she said.’
According to a ReachTEL poll commissioned by the ACTU, and conducted on February 27 and 28, voters in Page could be prepared to ditch Mr Hogan at the next election over the issue.
Among 3,515 surveyed in five swinging electorates, 65.1 per cent said the government should legislate to protect penalty rates, compared with 34.9 per cent who oppose intervention.
Ms Lloyed, who has launched a petition calling on Mr Hogan to cross the floor over the planned changes, says ‘it’s going to impact very drastically on Mr Hogan’s constituents.’
‘I’m hoping to get about 1,000 signatures before I take the petition to Mr Hogan,’ she told Echonetdaily.
Ms Lloyd said that as the government has just a one-seat majority in the lower house, ‘we’re calling on the other independents to join Labor in supporting this legislation.’
‘So I’m asking Mr Hogan to stand up for his community and cross the floor and support this legislation, which is going to protect the penalty rates of so many in his own community,’ she said.
‘These are the last people who can afford to have their wages cut.
‘It’s going to hurt young people trying to put themselves through university. It’s going to disproportionately affect women and single parents on low-paid retail and hospitality jobs, who rely on penalty rates and the flexibility that part time work offers them.
‘I know from my own personal experience as a former student at SCU, that working as a waitress on Sunday meant I could afford essentials like food, rent, petrol and textbooks.
More jobs unlikely
Ms Lloyd said there was ‘no evidence that reducing penalty rates is going to increase business hours. ‘
‘In fact, in evidence given at the Fair Work Commission many employers said it was unlikely that they would put on any more staff if penalty rates were reduced,’ she said.
‘And Citigroup last year released financial analysis that found retailers were likely to deliver “any savings from penalty-rate cuts to their shareholders”.
‘It’s a self-defeating strategy that’s going to lead to less consumer demand because… when you start hacking into people’s wages they’re going to stop spending.
‘They’re not going to go out for coffee or breakfast, or buy that skirt or upgrade that phone. They’re not going be able to afford it.
‘The staff that this is saving money from are also the consumers that keep the economy ticking.
‘Wage growth is at an all-time low, expenses are at an all-time high. And do you know what else is at an all-time high? Company profits. They are the highest they’ve been in 40 years.
‘This government is so out of touch with our local workers. It’s just like a sick joke. And I can’t believe Mr Hogan is going to stand by and watch the lowest-paid workers of this community suffer this slap,’ Ms Lloyd said.