By James Reid
Labor has vowed to fight the Fair Work Commission’s ruling to cut Sunday penalty rates, with legislation to be put to Parliament on Monday.
The opposition will give notice to introduce a bill to protect penalty rates, preventing the Fair Work Commission (FWC) decision from taking effect and stopping future cuts if take-home pay is dropped.
Labor’s push on penalty rates come as the latest Newspoll shows the Coalition slipping further behind the opposition.
The FWC last week ruled that Sunday penalty rates for retail, hospitality and fast food workers would be cut by July 1, reportedly affecting up to 700,000 Australians.
“Malcolm Turnbull is giving the big banks a tax cut and the person making his coffee a pay cut,” opposition leader Bill Shorten said on Sunday.
“The Prime Minister can’t even summon up a bit of sympathy for these people. As far as he’s concerned, they are just numbers on a spreadsheet.
“These people have bills to pay and families to support—and every single one has less money in their pocket as a result of this dreadful decision.”
The government trails Labor by 45% to 55% in two-party terms in the latest Newspoll, down from 46 to 54 at the start of the month.
Turnbull still leads Shorten as preferred prime minister, but his lead has shrunk to 40% for the PM compared to 33% for the opposition leader—down from his 12-point buffer of three weeks ago.
In a letter sent to the PM on Sunday, Shorten called on Turnbull to support Labor’s proposed legislation to protect workers, who the opposition say will lose up to $6000 a year as a result of the penalty rate cut.
“A decision not to intervene is a decision to endorse the proposed cuts to pay. There is no doubt that this decision will cause genuine financial hardship. It is simply unacceptable to reduce penalty rates without compensation. That should be the basis for acting, if nothing else convinces you,” he wrote.
“You have a window to act before the [Fair Work] Commission issues its determination and the Opposition would work with you to ensure this devastating cut to low paid workers’ income never occurs.
“If you don’t, Labor will.”
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The Greens party and independent Senator Jacqui Lambie are expected to support the bill to stop penalty rate cuts.
Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) President Ged Kearney welcomed the proposed legislation, saying penalty rates must be secured for the future of Australian workers.
“This is a cut Australian workers cannot afford and do not deserve,” she said in a statement.
“The ACTU will never accept cuts to penalty rates that result in cuts to take home pay and this is exactly what this decision has done.
“We need the rules to change so penalty rates cannot be cut and our parliament must act now to protect working people.”
Labor should respect penalty rates decision: ACCI
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry workplace relations director Scott Barklamb called on Shorten and the ALP to respect the decision and not seek to overturn the Commission’s ruling.
“The penalty rates decisions will create new jobs, lead to additional hours for people who already work on weekends and increase the services available to the community,” Barklamb told The New Daily.
“The Commission has found not just that it will do no harm, but that it will do good for providing more jobs particularly for young people and more service to community so we absolutely want it to come into effect.”“These benefits will be put at risk if politicians attempt to meddle with the decision.
Barklamb said Labor had a “proud history” in respecting decisions on industrial relations.
“The case was determined under rules that were put in place by the previous Rudd-Gillard government. The bench that determined the case was entirely appointed by Labor. Three members of it were appointed by Bill Shorten himself,” he said.
“Labor has a proud history of respecting the umpire’s decision on industrial relations and this is an opportunity to continue it.
“It would be absurd and damaging for anyone to seek to overturn this ruling in pursuit of perceived political advantage.”