Workers will be hurt by pay cuts: unions

The Fair Work Commission has cut a hole in the pockets of up to a million Australian workers and pilfered a chunk of their bottom line, unions says.


With the commission announcing hospitality, fast food, retail and pharmacy workers will have their Sunday penalty rates slashed, the finger pointing began between unions, politicians and business groups.

The Turnbull government and business groups say the Fair Work Commission’s independence should be respected and the decision will boost jobs and investment, especially in regional areas.

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash said that Labor leader Bill Shorten, during his tenure as workplace minister, changed the Fair Work Act to require the Fair Work Commission to review penalty rates as part of a four-yearly process.

“Today’s decision by the commission to adjust penalty rates is, therefore, a direct result of the review process put in place by Bill Shorten,” Senator Cash said.

But Mr Shorten said it was a “kick in the guts” for some of the nation’s lowest paid workers.

“The reality is that the unthinkable has happened – we are seeing mass pay cuts under a Turnbull government,” Mr Shorten said in Sydney.

The Greens joined Labor, saying they would introduce legislation to try and stop the cuts going ahead.

Unions say the cuts will hurt the living standards of up to a million of the nation’s lowest paid workers.

“I suspect you won’t see more people getting jobs but you’ll just see young people with less money in their pocket,” Greens industrial relations spokesman Adam Bandt said.

“You can’t survive on a 20 per cent pay cut,” ACTU president Ged Kearney said, calling on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to reverse the decision.

Business groups say the cuts are necessary to reinvigorate Sunday trade and will allow employers to put more staff on and stay open longer.

“There will be more jobs. It might not be a lot, it might be 10,000. We don’t know how many, but we’ll find out,” Council of Small Business Australia chief executive Peter Strong said.

The public holiday changes will take effect from July 1, while the commission will hear submissions on how the Sunday penalty rate changes should be brought in.