Cuts to penalty rates go ahead

The Federal Court decision to uphold penalty rate cuts has received a mixed reaction from local workers and businesses.

Applications by unions against the Fair Work Commission’s cut to weekend and public holiday rates in hospitality and retail were dismissed on Wednesday. 

Ballarat Trades Hall secretary Brett Edgington said the decision could mean Ballarat workers are $3000 and $6000 worse off each year. 

“Restricting the ability of low wage earners to have disposable income is just fulfilling a downward spiral,” Mr Edgington said. 

“Many of Ballarat’s industries need people to be able to spend money outside of the necessities.

“By restricting the ability of people to buy a coffee or head to the movies, you’re going to have a flow-on effect to the rest of the community.

“Ultimately the Fair Work Commission has failed to uphold their duty to improve wages and conditions for their workers,” he said. 

The initial decision in February saw the Sunday penalty rates for full-time and part-time hospitality workers cut from 175 per cent of their hourly wage to 150 per cent. 

Sunday penalty rates for full-time and part-time retail workers reduced from 200 per cent to 150 per cent, with casual workers experiencing a cut from 200 per cent to 175 per cent on Sundays.

Commerce Ballarat chair David Wright said the cuts to penalty rates would take pressure off business owners.

“This decision will improve cash flow for businesses and allow them the ability to employ staff more regularly, or even bring on more staff,” Mr Wright said. 

“It could be the difference between being able to afford to open on the weekends or not for a lot of businesses.

“Small business owners will be able to employ people over the weekend, instead of working six or seven days a week themselves. 

“It’ll improve their quality of life and give them some respite.

“Workers will still be receiving penalty rates even if it’s reduced, and for some workers it could be the difference between receiving zero or receiving something,” he said. 

Penalty rate cuts will be phased in over four years.