24/02/2017 - 11:22

Barnett chances his arm on penalty rates

24/02/2017 - 11:22

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ANALYSIS: Colin Barnett has taken a political risk in expressing his view that the Fair Work Commission’s historic decision to cut Sunday penalty rates for pharmacy, fast food, hospitality and retail workers should also apply to Western Australian award workers.

Barnett chances his arm on penalty rates
Colin Barnett is playing to his support base.

ANALYSIS: Colin Barnett has taken a political risk in expressing his view that the Fair Work Commission’s historic decision to cut Sunday penalty rates for pharmacy, fast food, hospitality and retail workers should also apply to Western Australian award workers.

By way of contrast, Labor leader Mark McGowan has played safe, expressing concern for low-paid weekend workers who will have their pay cut.

The FWC decision comes at a delicate time in the political cycle, with the WA election just two weeks away.

Mr Barnett is playing to his traditional constituency, small business, in throwing his support behind the decision. Many believe it is long overdue and that the FWC is being courageous. But in political terms, there are more workers than business operators who will be affected. Perhaps his view is that the workers are unlikely to vote Liberal anyway. The small business owners represent more friendly territory.

What has been surprising is that, in a state with the highest rate of unemployment in the nation, 6.5 per cent, neither leader appeared to stress the possible job opportunities that the decision could provide.

There’s an old saying, ‘one worker’s pay rise is another worker’s lost job’. If that’s correct, so is this, ‘one worker’s pay cut is another worker’s new job’.

So there is the prospect, when the decision starts to apply, for new jobs to open up. And that’s a plus.

The decision is bad news for workers who have been relying on penalty rates to make ends meet. But healthy penalty rates will still apply despite the cuts.

Regardless of the timing and political fallout, the FWC decision reflects the reality that Sundays are no longer a day of rest during which huge numbers of Australians attend church services. They are just another day in the week. More people it seems go out for Sunday brunch than flock to worship.

In addition, Australia is a high-cost country and the decision is a modest attempt to rein-in those costs.

Spare a thought for FWC president Iain Ross. He is a former assistant secretary of the ACTU and was appointed by the previous Labor government. He won’t be popular with his old colleagues.

 

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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