Weekend penalty rates are back on the election agenda. The politics might be different but nothing has changed about the reasons employers and employees alike should reject a weakening of conditions, contends Tony Farley.
The Acting Chair of ACCER (the Australian Catholic Council for Employment Relations) writes in a story for The Catholic Weekly entitled Five reasons to defend penalty rates: A month after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull described penalty rates as "out-dated," the Productivity Commission recommended changes for workers in the entertainment, hospitality and retail industries that would bring Sunday rates into line with Saturday rates.
Election rhetoric has put further pressure on the Fair Work Commission which has been asked to rule on employer applications to reduce Sunday rates in these industries.
The traditional capital and labour divide has always been evident in the public discussion about penalty rates and it sets the stage for the trading of blows between our leaders on the best way forward for jobs, productivity and the economy.
What the major parties do have in common is a concern for Australia's future and in particular the economic legacy that will be left for current and future generations.
It's a pity the major parties couldn't work together and come up with a bi-partisan approach to the big issues like taxation that could save Australia from an outdated tax system that neither party can possibly change on its own.
It is not despite the 24-hour, seven-days-a-week economy, but precisely because of it that we must retain penalty rates in order to ensure our lowest paid and most vulnerable workers and their families can make ends meet.
It's not just a good thing to do, it prevents a slippery slope to continued erosion of pay and conditions for those who are already struggling and prevents reductions in rates for the rest of the workforce.
We live in a community not an economy. While the notion of the Sabbath may have lost some currency in our secular society, there is a continued need for a day of rest, a day for family and friends, and a day to worship.
Penalty rates rightly compensate weekend workers for losing out on this precious time so that the rest of us may enjoy ours.
If you're not convinced, here are five great reasons to defend penalty rates . . .
Five reasons to defend penalty rates (The Catholic Weekly)