Workers are losing extra pay on weekends and public holidays because of deals between unions and businesses not because of cuts to penalty rates, the Turnbull government says.
Government MPs aren’t backing a private member’s bill by Labor leader Bill Shorten to restore penalty rates for 700,000 workers, with Liberal Craig Kelly saying the bargaining agreements put large unionised workforces at an advantage over smaller organisations.
“It has nothing to do with penalty rates, it is about more union control, more union dominance across the workforce,” Kelly told the lower house on Monday.
Managing Director, McDonald Murholme, Alan McDonald said, “The cuts in penalty rates are the prime cause for employees losing pay not the deals between the unions and businesses.”
“The deals between businesses and unions are done because union influence in the private sector has declined for the following three reasons since Bob Hawke sided with the airlines against pilots in 1989, a pivotal point in changing the balance,” he said.
“As an aside however, it can be inferred that there is no benefit for the unions in having private sector employees in the hospitality industry paid penalty rates at weekends if it results in higher costs of food and hospitality to them. The key unions in health, education and government have no vested interest in the rights of employees in the hospitality sectors.”
The Fair Work Commission cut Sunday penalty rates for hospitality, retail, pharmacy and fast food employees from July last year.
The decision was backed by the Federal Court after a union challenge, but a Senate inquiry report last October called for it to be overturned.
The government rejected this proposal, accepting the Fair Work Commission’s original call.
Shorten introduced the legislation in June in an attempt to try and protect incomes from July 1.
Labor MP Terri Butler said the penalty rate cuts occurred under the Turnbull government’s watch, making it effectively responsible.
“They have the chance now to fix it and they should,” she said.