Labor vows to support penalty rates

by Victoria Bruce02 May 2016
While the Fair Work Commission is currently considering a raft of changes to penalty rates, including slashing Sunday penalties, Labor is facing pressure from unions to enshrine penalty rates in legislation if it gets into government at the next election.

Labor says it will make a submission to the Fair Work Commission’s case on penalty rates, arguing that Sunday rates be left unchanged, but has not said whether it will abide by the tribunal's decision, AFR reported.

Last Friday workplace relations spokesman Brendan O'Connor announced that a Labor government would make a further submission to the FWC in favour of retaining penalty rates.

O’Conner told AFR the two sides of politics had clear differences on this policy.  

This stance is also Labor’s effort to mollify the union movement after Shorten stated earlier in April that if he won government he would abide by the decision of the Commission to cut some Sunday penalty rates across certain industries.

During an interview on Melbourne radio station 3AW about whether he would accept the FWC’s decision on penalty rates, Shorten replied: "Yes ... I said I'd accept the independent trib­unal and that makes a big difference between us and the Liberals."

This was not well received from union officials, as the AFR reports unions in Victoria say they would push for penalty rates to become legislation if Labor takes government at the next federal election.

While speaking to unions in Brisbane last Friday, O'Connor stated that Labor in government would make a further intervention in the case.

"In Opposition, Labor has already taken the unprecedented step of making a submission to the FWC arguing that penalty rates must not be cut,” O’Connor says.

"This is in sharp contrast with the Abbott-Turnbull Government which has made it clear penalty rates should be cut, through the Productivity Commission's report.

 "Labor understands that penalty rates are not a luxury; they are what pays the bills and puts food on the table for the 4.5 million Australians that rely on them. 

O’Connor says the the Commonwealth Government last made a submission in favour of penalty rates during the two-year review of modern awards – when Labor was in power.

"Labor also made changes to the Fair Work Act in 2013 to ensure that the Fair Work Commission took into account the need to provide additional remuneration for employees working outside normal hours, including weekends,” he says.
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