Sunday, February 26, 2017

Fair Work 2017 Penalty Rates Decision Blue Mountains Unions & Community Response

“The Fair Work Commission’s decision to cut the Sunday and public holiday penalty rates of our lowest paid workers, compounding the effects of record low wages growth and growing personal debt, will have a devastating effect on workers and businesses in the Blue Mountains.” warned Kerry Cooke, President of Blue Mountains Unions & Community (formerly Blue Mountains Unions Council Inc).

"Cutting up to $6000 a year from the pay of about one million workers is economic lunacy."

“Australians are already battling to meet their financial commitments. When faced with a choice between paying the increasing costs of a roof above their head and buying a meal or a holiday from the small businesses of the Mountains our local economy and all who depend on it will be the losers.” he said.

“The hardest hit will be workers who are already struggling with insecure work and low income. Household budgets cannot take a $50 to $100 per week hit. The affected industries employ many more women than others and these cuts will further entrench the gendered wage gap.”

BMUC has no reason to believe that a Fair Workaudit of food services in restaurants, cafés and catering companies throughoutAustralia, which found only 42% of employers were compliant with their workplace obligations with almost 20% of underpayments relating to penalty rates, is not a fair estimate of the situation in the Blue Mountains.

BMUC believe that ethical employers in the Mountains already run successful businesses where workers’ legal entitlements and the payment of relevant taxes and super are an expected part of their business plan. Those employers face a bigger obstacle when forced to compete against the illegal activities of employers who underpay their workers and pay cash in hand. He welcomed the news that some employers, like Glenbrook Liquor Store and Springwood's Sweetest Thing Lolly Shop and Gelato Bar and , have chosen not to cut the Sunday penalties of their workers and calls on all Blue Mountains businesses to profit from the good will generated by following their lead.

Mr Cooke took this opportunity to commend former Blue Mountains Mayor Jim Angel for his overview of the impact of unethical employers in his submission to the Senate Inquiry into Corporate Avoidance ofthe Fair Work Act.

Mr Cooke, in speaking for BMUC, maintains that penalty rates compensate those who sacrifice the time they spend on their mental, physical and spiritual health – time with their families, attending church, sport and other social activities – and they are also lost to many voluntary activities which benefit the community.

BMUC rejects the rationale that cutting wages will create jobs, said Mr Cooke. "Businesses open their doors when there are customers to serve and they employ the number of workers they need to get the job done. They don't spend extra cash on workers to stand around and do nothing."

"Customers create jobs and penalty rates create customers. “

"Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Coalition will try and wash their hands of this attack on workers, shifting the blame to an independent Fair Work Commission but they cannot deny they are in full support of these cuts to the lowest paid workers and have been lobbying for them for years,” said Mr Cooke

He said that community support for penalty rates is strong. “At a Winter Magic festival BMUC collected over 1000 signatures on a petition supporting penalty rates in one day. We still had people lining up to sign when festival organisers asked us to pack up our stall. People, voters, are angry about this, worried for themselves, for their children and for the low paid workers in our community.”

“When the union campaign “Save Our Weekend” hits the Coalition where it hurts – in the ballot box – they will look back on the Your Rights @ Work campaign with nostalgia,” he added.

Blue Mountains Unions & Community invites residents to join the fight against this attack on workers via the BMUC webpage or by contacting the Secretary, Deb Smith via email at

“But most importantly, join your Union and become an active member, standing with others to defend and improve your rights at work.” Mr Cooke concluded.

Authorised by D Smith, Secretary, Blue Mountains Unions & Community (Blue Mountains Unions Council Inc)

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