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Penalty rate cuts will ‘build inequality’, not create jobs

Penalty rates cuts

Penalty rates: “Cutting penalty rates will not create jobs but it will build inequality.”

FOR Gold Coast retail worker Rachel Spackman, the whole issue of weekend penalty rates has a lot to do with religion.

The 19-year-old Catholic is a full-time student and works casually up to 15 hours a week.

She tries not to work on Sundays.

“It’s a juggle because I like to go to 9am Mass,” the Merrimac student, who works in a retail store in Pacific Fair Shopping Centre, said.

“So I try to work during the week or on Saturdays, but that is not always possible.

“So I can still attend Saturday Vigil Mass.”

Weekend penalty rate cuts introduced on July 1 will mean an incremental cut of income for weekend workers in retail, fast food, pharmacy and hospitality areas, first by five per cent this year, then by greater amounts up until 2020.

Ms Spackman said the cuts would have no immediate effect on her pay packet because she already received time-and-a-half for weekend shifts – not double-time received by many workers.

St Vincent de Paul Society national chief executive officer Dr John Falzon said the pain would be felt by more than 700,000 workers “largely low-paid, award-reliant workers”.

“Cutting penalty rates will not create jobs but it will build inequality,” Dr Falzon said.

“In some instances weekend workers will be worse off by up to $77 each week.”

Hospitality workers contacted by The Catholic Leader conceded difficult times lay ahead.

One weekend barista said his work for a retail chain meant he was “shielded from any immediate changes”.

“But if I was working in a small, independent café I’d be worried. They will be worse off, expected to work longer hours for less pay,” he said.

The Australian Labor Party has already vowed to take the weekend penalty rates issue to the next federal election.

Speaking at a rally in Caboolture on July 3, Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said he empathised with the thousands of workers who were working on a Sunday without their penalty rates.

“The fact of the matter is that most of the people …  on penalty rates earn anywhere between $30 and $70,000 a year,” he said.

“What this out-of-touch, elitist Prime Minister doesn’t understand is that when you earn that amount of money, you don’t save.

“People who rely on penalty rates spend every dollar they get.”

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash said Mr Shorten’s policy would harm small businesses, who benefitted from the decision to “level the playing field” with larger businesses who could more afford penalty rates.

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