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Women Will Suffer Most From The Penalty Rate Cuts

Why should workers on low wages take a pay cut so big business can have a tax cut?

01/03/2017 10:00 AM AEDT | Updated 01/03/2017 10:01 AM AEDT
Eva Katalin Kondoros
"Workers who give up their weekend deserve something extra."

Last week's shock decision by the Fair Work Commission to cut weekend penalty rates will see women suffer most. The decision slashes Sunday and public holiday rates for around 700,000 workers in hospitality, hotels, retail, fast food and pharmacies – mostly women.

Think of the people you know who work in shops, hotels, or who staff your local fast food joint. Their pay will be cut.

The cuts to penalty rates are unlikely to stop here.

Some of you may work on a Sunday or a public holiday and get paid penalty rates. If not you likely know someone -- maybe a friend, a neighbour or even your son or daughter -- who relies on these rates to get by.

Enjoying the weekend is part of our way of life -- it's one of the things we talk about when people ask us what is special about living in Australia. Sunday in particular is a day when we spend time with family, go to the beach, attend church, or otherwise participate in our community. Workers who give up their weekend deserve something extra -- a little benefit to make up for serving the rest of us while we relax with family and friends.

I want to be able to go out, shop and buy a coffee on a Sunday, but I want the person serving me that coffee or helping me at the pharmacy to get extra because they're not at home with their family and friends.

The cuts to penalty rates are unlikely to stop here.

What starts with hospitality and retail will flow into the rest of the workforce -- health and social care, manufacturing, administration and construction will all be next. Everyone's wages are at risk.

Labor has acted by immediately introducing legislation to the Parliament to reverse this penalty rate decision and ensure that cuts to weekend wages never happen again. Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals could choose to back our move and stop these wage cuts.

Wherever I go around the country people talk to me about the cost of living and how hard it seems to make ends meet.

Wages were down 0.5 percent in the three months to December 2016. The penalty rate cuts come on top of Liberal cuts to family payments, childcare, and pensions. Wages are falling, underemployment is at record highs. And the gap between rich and poor is the worst it's been in 75 years.

The gender pay gap will grow as a result of this penalty rates decision and the Liberals' cuts, meaning women will be even further behind men.

Meanwhile, company profits have soared -- up 26 percent in 2016 alone -- and the Liberals want to give big business a $50 billion tax handout to fatten their profits even more. The Liberals think workers on low wages should take a pay cut so they can give big business a tax cut. How is that fair? Their priorities are all wrong.

On average, women earn around 17 percent less than men for doing work of equal value -- this is known as the gender pay gap. Women have been marching in the streets for 50 years to protest against it. The gender pay gap will grow as a result of this penalty rates decision and the Liberals' cuts, meaning women will be even further behind men.

If Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals cared about people more than the profits of big business, they would do something about it.

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