Report gives bitter Christmas gift to workers

Today’s Productivity Commission report recommending cuts to weekend penalty rates is a bitter Christmas present as retail and hospitality sectors gear up for a bumper holiday shopping season.

QCU President John Battams called on the Turnbull government to immediately publicly respond and reject the recommendations to cut weekend penalty rates.

“Workers and their families across Queensland want to know if the Turnbull government really supports fair pay for those in our community who make sacrifices to keep businesses and services operating during weekends and holidays,” he said.

Workers and their unions do not accept business claims that cutting penalty rates would increase employment as there was no evidence supporting this presented to the Productivity Commission.

“Most people believe it will just go towards bigger profits at the expense of workers’ wages,” he said.

It is set to become a central issue for the federal election this year, he said.

Mr Battams said the federal government was cynically releasing the plans to cut wages as business trade peaked at Christmas and New Year.

“Queensland recorded a boom in visitor numbers during the past year – and their total spend was up 14 per cent on the past year. Growth in hospitality outlets like restaurants and cafes has never been stronger,” he said.

And, according to the CCIQ, there are signs of “expectations (of) end-of-year retail trade boosting the upcoming December quarter”. Media reports estimated a four per cent increase in consumer spending from the 2014 holiday season.

 “The current weekend rates have strong support in the Australian community – they are compensation for family and social time that shift and weekend workers miss.”

Unions had written to LNP MPs and Senators in Queensland but none would pledge to support current weekend penalty rates, Mr Battams said.

“Workers could lose up to $100 a week in wages if the Turnbull government accepts the report recommendations,” Mr Battams said.

More than 420,000 Queensland workers received penalty rates, he said.

“Feedback from our recent Save Weekend Rates campaign shows any cuts to wages will cop fierce opposition from workers and their families.

“It would be a pay cut that workers can’t afford and don’t deserve.”

Current jobs growth is at a 10-year high, whilst workers’ wage growth is at a 17-year low, according to the ABS.

The Westpac / Chamber of Commerce and Industry Qld Pulse Survey for September 2015 indicates in a business operators’ poll on major constraints on growth that “direct wage costs have moved down to eighth place from third place (in the previous quarter), as labour costs continue to moderate downwards”.

“Cutting wages reduces consumer spending which hurts members of the very employer groups which are baying to slash penalty rates,” Mr Battams said.

He said instead of focusing on workers’ wages, on which workers pay income tax, the Turnbull government should turn its mind to why 600 of Australian’s largest companies paid no tax at all in 2013-14.

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