Bill Shorten penalty rates move a sleight of hand: Bandt

Labor’s latest move on penalty rates was a sleight of hand that could still allow penalty rates to be cut, said Greens employment spokesperson Adam Bandt.

Labor and the Coalition both said during the election they would abide by the Fair Work Commission should it decide to cut Sunday penalty rates. The Greens said they would legislate to protect existing penalty rates. Today, Labor has announced it is open to legislation, but only if the Fair Work Commission cuts penalty rates “without sufficient compensation”, leaving the door open for penalty rates still to be cut provided normal weekly hourly rates are lifted or some other form of compensation is provided, the approach adopted at places like Coles and Hungry Jack’s that has seen thousands of workers out of pocket.

“Under pressure from the Greens and unions for being on a unity ticket with Malcolm Turnbull, Labor’s latest move appears to be sleight of hand that will still allow penalty rates to be cut,” said Mr Bandt.

“Just like the Liberals, Labor appears set to allow the Fair Work Commission to cut penalty rates as long as weekly hourly rates are lifted or some other vague ‘compensation’ is offered.”

 “Instead of simply putting a floor under existing penalty rates as the Greens propose, Labor’s latest sleight of hand could still allow penalty rates to be cut.

 “Labor is apparently defending the approach taken at places like Woolworths and Hungry Jack’s, where the Commission approves penalty rates being traded off for vague ‘compensation’ elsewhere and workers end up thousands of dollars out of pocket.”

 “These three words from Bill Shorten – ‘without sufficient compensation’ – open up huge loopholes that could allow people to be paid less than the minimum weekend rate, as we’ve seen in our supermarkets and fast food outlets.”

 “Nor is it good enough to simply protect total take home pay, as Labor may be proposing, as this could effectively see basic wage increases intended to cover the rising cost of living dressed up as ‘compensation’ for penalty rate cuts. Workers’ pay could go backwards in real terms.”

 “Labor needs to climb down off the fence and join the Greens in enshrining weekend rates in law.”