30/11/2016 - 11:37

Barnett calls for change to penalty rates

30/11/2016 - 11:37

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Colin Barnett says he would like to see penalty rates cut for casual small business employees on Sundays and public holidays, but lift the base rate for standard hours.

Colin Barnett says he would like to see penalty rates cut for casual small business employees on Sundays and public holidays, but lift the base rate for standard hours.

The premier said the state's workers should get a 50 per cent loading on Sundays and public holidays, not double or triple time.

“If we’re serious about growing the tourism and hospitality industry to have a more vibrant, 24-7 lifestyle, then employment conditions need to reflect that,” Mr barnett told reporters today.

“My sympathy lies primarily with people who work full time in those industries – they are not highly paid, and yet you might find a casual employee or a part timer doing work on a Sunday or public holiday and getting two-to-three times the hourly rate of the permanent worker.

“I don’t think that’s equitable.”

Mr Barnett said rather than protesting the issue, the unions should acknowledge that they held enterprise agreements with big employers and retail chains.

“The penalty rates (big businesses) pay is far less than what small business will pay,” he said.

“So big business has done it in cahoots with the unions – good luck to them, they’ve come to sensible arrangements.

“Small business is not a part of that, and so it’s the small businesses that really struggle.”

Mr Barnett said he was looking for something that was sensible and fair, and agreed that employees should be paid extra for working those odd hours.

“What I would like to see is probably the standard base hourly rate being increased a little bit and penalty rates over weekend and night-time work ease back,” he said.

“If you work night-times or on weekends you should be paid a higher penalty rate, I don’t disagree with that at all.

“But maybe what applies on Saturday, which is about time and a half, would be a fair thing on Sundays and public holidays, and maybe as part of that negotiation the base rate of everyone in the industry can go up a little bit as well."

The Australian Hotels Association says changes as proposed by the premier meantl some venues will be able to afford to open on Sundays and public holidays, but United Voice WA says the state's lowest-paid workers can't afford to lose the money. 

UnionsWA secretary Meredith Hammat said the idea of cutting penalty rates was economically dangerous.

“A cut in weekend take home pay for working people in tourism, hospitality and retail will simply mean they have less money to spend and will depress our economy further,” she said.

“Of course, such a cut in wages to the lowest paid in our community would be deeply unfair.

“These working people lose out on time with family and friend and in the community, whether that’s sporting, religious or other shared activities.

“A cut in their pay will mean needing to work even longer and unsociable hours of work, just to take home the same pay.”

Australian Hotels Association chief executive Bradley Woods said he supported the premier’s proposal.

“Restaurants, pubs, hotels, retailers and service providers have consistently indicated that they would be more prepared to trade and hire extra staff if the penalties for opening on weekends and on public holidays weren’t so excessive,” Mr Woods said.

“The burden of penalty rates means that on Sundays and public holidays many small businesses can’t afford to open, meaning less productivity and less wages for local workers.

“It’s often the case that for businesses that do open on public holidays, costs have to be passed on to consumers.”

High penalty rates are also limiting WA’s ability to become more internationally competitive, he said.

“It is disappointing that at a time when WA needs to be focused on attracting more visitors, and travellers are expecting the highest level of service, the costs associated with penalty rates make it impossible for hotels to deliver the service levels they would like to,” Mr Woods said.

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