- Retail and pharmacy workers lose 50% for working on Sunday.
- Workers lose 25% for working on public holidays.
- Sunday no different to Saturday for fast food workers.
On 23 February, after some two years of legal argument, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) delivered a decision to massively reduce Sunday and Public Holiday penalty rates in the Awards covering retail and hospitality workers.
This is the largest and broadest reduction in penalties delivered by any tribunal in Australian history, and comes at a time of record low wages growth for Australian working families.
The decision was not balanced with an increase in the base rate, or any other improvement in the Award — it was nothing but a straight out cut to take home pay!
A cut that retail and hospitality workers don’t deserve, and a cut they can’t afford.
EBA Employees Protected ...For Now
SDA members working under an enterprise agreement will continue to receive their existing penalty rates and their higher (loaded) hourly rates of pay.
However, this decision reduces the overall value of the Award which will make bargaining more challenging in the future.
Not only do more than 80% of Australians support penalty rates, thousands of them took steps to make their position known.
The Commission received 5,960 public submissions after calling for interested parties to make submissions via its website.
These submissions were by individuals, many coming from workers in the retail and fast food industries.
The Commission found that the overwhelming majority of these contributions opposed a reduction in penalty rates. They provided support to the evidence that employees would face financial difficulties if rates were reduced, and pointed out that Sunday was a significant day.
SDA members and Delegates also participated in numerous campaign actions throughout 2015 and 2016.
Reasons Given By The FWC to Cut Penalty Rates
The Commission believes that the existing rates do not provide a fair and relevant safety net, as they need to be ‘fair’ to both employers and employees.
This is despite having been presented with evidence by SDA and United Voice members that showed the significant effects of reduced rates, and provided a human face to this critical matter.
“The evidence of the SDA lay witnesses provides an individual perspective on the impact of the proposed changes. For example, witness SDA Retail 1 said that if Sunday penalty rates were reduced to 150% he would be $74.06 worse off each week – a reduction of 7.88 % in his current weekly earnings.
“Many of these employees earn just enough to cover weekly living expenses, saving money is difficult and unexpected expenses produce considerable financial distress.”
You've Got to Be Joking!
The hardship these reduced rates will cause to employees is something the Commission expects will somehow be fixed by ‘transitional arrangements’. The fact is that no transitional arrangement can fix the real cut in wages employees are now faced with.
Another patronising suggestion to help fix the issue is that employees can work more hours! This is a decision that is completely out of touch.
The employers’ arguments in total convinced the Commission “that a reduction in the Sunday penalty rate in the Retail Award is likely to lead to some additional employment”.
This is an extremely optimistic comment — not evidence — and it is widely anticipated by economists that this decision will actually reduce consumption so there will be no additional jobs.
Dividing The Workforce
Fast food employees on the Level 1 rate (i.e. non-managerial) were not considered ‘career’ employees. However, managers and supervisors (Level 2 and 3 employees) apparently “experience a higher level of disutility associated with Sunday work than that experienced by Level 1 employees”.
That is, their Sunday is seen as more important than the 85%+ of employees who work as Level 1.
The reality is that our community does put a higher value on Sundays and it is valuable equally to all of us.
The case leaves many unresolved issues.
Transition arrangements for the cuts to the Sunday rate now need to be arbitrated and arguments on this matter will be put to the Commission commencing in late March.
The SDA will continue its campaign to protect the interests of its members as the next stage of the penalty rates case unfolds.