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penalty rates

A "disastrous decision": FWC cuts penalty rates

Unions have slammed a Fair Work Commission (FWC) decision that will see workers in some industries lose up to $6,000 a year in lost penalty rates. 

And they have called on all political parties to take steps to ensure that the decision doesn’t cut workers’ total take-home pay. 

In a major ruling released on Thursday 23 February, the FWC reduced Sunday penalty rates in the hospitality, retail, fast food and pharmacy sectors and pared-back public holiday penalties in five awards.

Full-time and part-time workers in retail will have their Sunday penalty rates dropped from 200 per cent to 150 per cent of their standard hourly rate, while casuals will go from 200 per cent to 175 per cent.

Hospitality employees will face a reduction in Sunday pay from 175 per cent to 150 per cent, while casual hospitality workers' pay will remain unchanged. 

Many of the workers affected are already among the lowest paid in the country. 

Labor leader, Bill Shorten, said the decision was “disastrous” while Greens MP Adam Bandt said the cuts were a "body blow" to people who relied on penalty rates to make ends meet. 

Both parties have pledged to find ways of legislating to ensure that workers are not left worse off by the FWC move, though to date there is no agreement on just how this might be achieved. 

The decision will not directly affect most CWU members although it has a potential impact on employees of Telstra Retail whose conditions are underpinned by the Retail Industry Award rather than the Telstra Award.  At present, however, those conditions are protected by the current Telstra Enterprise Agreement. 

Of course the decision, if it stands, will set a precedent that will undermine all penalty rates over time. That is why the CWU, along with other unions, will be supporting all efforts to either overturn this decision or offset its effects.

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