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Catholic Religious Australia criticises penalty rates cut, says it will hurt the vulnerable

Hospitality workers affected by penalty rates cuts

Cut criticism: “Most relevant is that vulnerable people, young people, will suffer because of this unjust decision.”

UNIONS, churches and even some businesses have joined a chorus of concern against the recent decision to reduce weekend penalty rates.

While unions are planning an ongoing campaign of industrial action, Catholic Religious Australia is concerned that the Fair Work Commission’s decision will increase inequity and hurt the most vulnerable people – the young, women and students.

“As politicians claim compensation for travel and absence from their families, people who of necessity work on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays deserve fair compensation,” CRA said in a statement.

“Company profits have surged while wages have declined sharply in the last eight years.

“ In the three months to December 2016, profits jumped by twenty per cent while wages have grown by only 0.5 per cent compared to a wage growth of 1.9 per cent over the past year.”

CRA said Catholic social teaching consistently argued that workers’ rights took priority over profit maximisation.

“It calls for the protection of people who endure hardship, unemployment and illness,” CRA said.

Some small businesses are making a point of difference by refusing to reduce the amount they pay their staff.

In the Byron Bay hinterland, Eltham Valley Pantry owners Ashlee Jones and Matt James are among those to receive a huge response on Facebook after they announced their staff of six would stay on the same wage.

“We would like to announce that in light of the recent changes relating to the retail and hospitality award that we will not be applying these changes to our staff,” they posted on Facebook.

“No staff member at The Pantry will be negatively affected by the Fair Work Commission’s announcement.”

“If paying staff proper wages means I pay more to dine on Sundays, so be it,” one Facebook respondent said.

“Good stuff! This is why you get my business!” another wrote.

The recent Fair Work Commission ruling will see hospitality workers take a pay cut for weekend work, a decision which CRA said “is another indirect attack on the social security safety net”.

“Catholic Religious Australia is disturbed by the political discussion which focuses on opponents rather than inequity that will result from the decision,” CRA said.

“It is irrelevant that the Fair Work Commission is an independent umpire in the eyes of the Government and big business.

“It is relevant that the pay cut is a political issue which ensures that penalty rates are to be cut.

“Most relevant is that vulnerable people, young people, will suffer because of this unjust decision.”

The Queensland Council of Unions executive has discussed strategy and tactics for a prolonged fight against what it describes as the Federal Government’s “radical” industrial relations agenda.

“Australian workers saw this pattern under John Howard in 2007 and they’re seeing it again now under the Turnbull Government,” QCU general secretary Ros McLennan said.

“They will stand up and fight back when their wages and conditions are under attack.”

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