Home > Political Observation, The Chopping Block > At the Chopping Block: Penalty Rates.

At the Chopping Block: Penalty Rates.

Welcome to a new segment here at Watching Society Fall. It’s called At the Chopping Block, and it will feature things we’re going to lose under the government at the time of the article being written. Right now the government is a Liberal Government under Tony Abbott, but in the future when it changes, At the Chopping Block will continue. I side with no particular party, just whoever is trying to do wrong by me at the time. So without further ado, let’s begin with the current attack on Penalty Rates.

I chanced upon this today while browsing the internet. Wow. I didn’t expect something like this, and while I did say that things would go to the proverbial, I meant in a time period that was a bit longer than fifteen days. Fifteen days and what are we facing? A campaign to lose our penalty rates. For those unable or unwilling to click on the link before, I’ll sum it up for you; retailers are pressing to have penalty rates cut or even completely removed, citing that they are ‘old fashioned’ and are ‘damaging profits’.

“Business groups tried to use Fair Work Australia to cut penalty rates earlier this year but were knocked back,

because they could produce no reliable evidence that they cost jobs.” – ACTU President Ged Kearney

Now we’re hearing about WorkChoices again. That little personalized contract people can be encouraged to sign that waives basic employee relations laws and EBA’s. Should their attack on penalty rates fail, WorkChoices could very well be their backup plan to cheapen the cost of Australian labour.

The ‘big’ retailers are pushing for this. Who is to say what’s ‘big’? Coles-Myer? Woolworths? In the video we see Gerry Harvey, the Executive Chairman of Harvey Norman, speaking in support of the penalty cuts, claiming that the Sunday rates are too high for what the staff are doing. Bernie Brookes, the Myer CEO is the same. In the video we see Dymocks and Myer as main supporters of cutting rates. Of course Dymocks is supporting it; the book retail industry is taking a beating from the likes of Amazon and online sales. Don’t forget how Angus & Robertson and Borders shut down. Dymocks narrowly missed out on following the same path. And while Myer is the store shown, Coles-Myer is a big group. Coles, K-mart, Liquorland, Officeworks.

So if you work weekends, public holidays, nights or early mornings, you might be in for some damage to the pay packet. Do you work non-standard hours because it suits you to do so, or do you work those hours because the pay is better? I, like many Australians, have to work un-sociable hours in order to receive more than mere subsistence. Spending up to twelve hours a day out the door but only getting paid for nine because I don’t get paid travel to work.

Retail workers don’t get paid very well as it is, but now their overtime rates are facing the axe? Some workers need penalty rates to survive. This goes far beyond working ‘unsociable hours’, which are already a big enough pain, but recent studies have shown that shift work increases your risk of obesity, heart conditions and stomach problems. Not to mention chronic fatigue leading to mental and emotional breakdowns, as well as damage to one’s family and social lives. It’s a rare person who can naturally work a night shift without causing severe health complications. More can be found at this link to the BetterHealth channel website, courtesy of the Victorian government.

Big retailers are pushing to cut your penalty rates. It will not end there. It will carry over to smaller retailers, then it’ll spread to other businesses. The people need to be made aware of this, because it is the Australian general public who will suffer for this. Teenagers, young adults, single parents, even parents in the middle class who need a second job to survive. We are all in this together, because we will all be affected. Those who won’t? People on six figure salaries in their ivory towers who are looking to find a way to reduce their expenditure and make a quick buck.

Raise awareness of this before it can be made a reality. We all need to stand up and support our shift-workers. Remember, none of us are as strong as all of us.

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