Last year, the SDA ran a strong campaign to protect Paid Parental Leave (PPL) after the Federal Coalition Government proposed cuts that would leave retail workers worse off.
The proposed cuts would have forced retail workers back to work early by not allowing them to access both employer and government paid parental leave schemes.
The current PPL scheme was designed to provide new parents with 26 weeks off — as recommended by the World Health Organisation — through a partnership between the Government, employers and the community.
Many SDA members have access to employer-provided PPL, but the Federal Coalition proposed to cut the Government parental leave payment by the number of weeks’ pay an employee receives from their employer.
SDA National Secretary Gerard Dwyer says the current paid parental leave scheme, which aims to achieve 26 weeks for all employees through a combination of government and employer paid leave is fair for all working families, not just some.
The SDA’s lobbying of Members of Parliament and, in particular, Senators was crucial to securing opposition to the unfair cuts to the current PPL scheme. The SDA also provided a significant submission to the Senate Committee inquiry into the proposed changes.
The SDA's Campaign
In order for the Government’s Bill to be passed in Parliament, the support of Senate crossbenchers was required.
The SDA ran postcard campaigns to key Senators in several states to send a message loud and clear — protect paid parental leave for working families.
In Tasmania, SDA members sent thank you postcards to local ALP Senators and Senator Jacqui Lambie who opposed the cuts.
In South Australia, SDA members called on Nick Xenophon and his Senators to keep their election promise to keep the current PPL scheme.
Over 1,300 South Australians signed postcards calling on the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) to keep their promise. These were hand delivered to Senator Xenophon in Canberra.
Shortly after that, NXT announced they would join the ALP in opposing the Liberal’s cuts.
Because of this, the changes to PPL were not introduced.
The pressure that the SDA, the ACTU and other unions continued to put on Senators was instrumental in ensuring that the Coalition Bill was defeated and the current scheme maintained.
Gerard Dwyer says, “SDA members should be proud of keeping the pressure on Senators to protect Paid Parental Leave.
“This is a great outcome for retail and low paid workers who will continue to be able to access the Government Paid Parental Leave Scheme, topped up by their employer.
“New parents need essential time off with their newborn and the SDA will always stand up to protect that time for working families.”
However, despite this successful outcome, the battle will continue. The Federal Government has shown that it will not give up trying to get its ideologically-driven policies through Parliament by varying means.
While the Federal Coalition Government continues to attack Paid Parental Leave, SDA members will continue to send a clear message that precious time with their children is not a political football.
Other Attempted Cuts to Working Families
Paid Parental Leave was not the only thing under attack by the Turnbull Government. They also proposed a raft of cuts that would impact working families, including changes to Family Tax Benefits.
Attempting to roll a range of savings measures into the same Bill which proposed improvements to child care held long-awaited Child Care funding to ransom and simply funded child care by taking money off working families somewhere else. Under the proposal, working families would have been far worse off. Under the Bill that was put forward, the following was proposed.
Paid Parental Leave Cuts
- 68,000 families (41%) would have their PPL payment reduced. Average loss: $5,600.
- 4,000 families (2%) would no longer be eligible for PPL at all. Average loss: $12,106.80.
Family Tax Benefits Cuts
- 1.1 million families would lose the Family Tax Benefit B (FTB-B) supplement of $354 per family per year.
- Around 30,000 sole parents with children in high school aged 17-19 would lose FTB-B completely - $3,186 per family per year.