Penalty rate cut has business benefits

THE decision by the Fair Work Commission to cut Sunday penalty rates for retail, hospitality, fast-food and pharmacy workers has drawn a mixed response among the business community.

South Grafton Ex-Servicemen's Club secretary manager Col Green said from a business point of view, the reduced penalty rates will help a business make a profit and keep people employed.

"In a business if we don't make money, don't make a profit we won't be here," he said.

"We've got to survive, and that way it continues their employment as well. By the time you pay the wages and all the penalties, there's nothing left at the end of the day.

"It's only going to affect your permanent and permanent part-timers, with our casual staff I don't think it's got any effect on them whatsoever. That way you'd be able to staff it with your regular staff and they probably unfortunately would have to work another hour or so to get the difference, but you'd employ them because you'd be able to employ them at a better rate."

Toast Espresso owner Judy Hackett said hoped the reduction in penalty rates would mean that cafe's and restaurants open on Sunday would stop adding a surcharge to customer's bills, but she acknowledged the difficult position it put staff in.

"We have a strong connection with both our staff and our customers, but people these days want to go out on the weekend, and whenever there's an opportunity to make sales, that's an opportunity for us to make money, and if that's what people want to do that's our opportunity to make sales," she said.

"We try and pay our team above award anyway, and we've been really concentrating on that the last couple of years."

While penalty rates have been an issue, Mrs Hackett said there should be more done to ensure workers in the hospitality industry are paid properly in the first place.

"It upsets me to hear stories of people not paid properly," she said.

"Even if they were just getting time and a half on Sunday, as long as they're getting that and super that's ok, but when people are getting paid less than award on Sunday cash-in-hand and no super, their future is being diddled."

Unions NSW secretary Mark Morey said the decision to slash penalty rates is a historic assault on wages and conditions.

"Penalty rates are not extra, discretionary income. Hundreds of thousands of retail, hospitality and fast food workers rely on Sunday penalty rates to pay their rent, child care and electricity bills," he said.

"This decision is not just unpopular with the workers directly affected. Polling undertaken just last week shows that politicians who support this cut will be punished by the electorate. 

"The ABS has revealed that wage growth remained at record lows, a trend that has alarmed economists and authorities such as the Reserve Bank. The Fair Work Commission's decision is not just unfair it's also economically unwise."

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