Over 50% of weekend workers get less than award pay – and it’s legal
(Breaking news – the Fair Work Commission has ruled that the agreement between Coles and the SDA is invalid – so we have been proven right – again)
Actually, more like 75% of people who work on weekends get less than award pay, and it is completely legal.
These are the weekend employees of Coles, Woolworths, McDonalds, KFC, Bunnings, Big W, Target, Kmart, Aldi, Costco, Dan Murphy’s, First Choice, IKEA, Myer, Office Works, Pizza Hut, Red Rooster, Masters & more. These businesses have negotiated enterprise agreements that decrease or remove penalty rates. This has occurred due to the hypocrisy and indeed “Animal Farm” behaviour of the retail union. It seems we are all equal, but some are more equal than others.
COSBOA is not supporting the removal of penalty rates. There is place in our system for those who work odd hours when they would rather not, or need to work longer than normal. We also believe the penalty rates for Sunday are too high and that the penalty rate system is too complicated. The retail union agrees that the rates are too high. They don’t agree through public statements where they twist the facts, however, they do agree through their actions, where the enterprise agreements they negotiate sometimes remove penalty rates altogether. The corrupted Ministry of Truth from the Orwell novel ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ would be pleased with such behaviour.
The fact is that what is probably the biggest union in Australia has already negotiated lower penalty rates, and indeed the removal of penalty rates on weekends altogether, for some sectors. They have created a two-tiered workplace relation system where big businesses pay lower or no penalty rates, while small business have to pay higher rates. They have created two classes of employees – a privileged class who are union members and an underclass who are not union members.
Basically the union known as the SDA (The Shop Distributors and Allied Employees Association) have negotiated enterprise agreements with the companies mentioned above that provides an increase in wages for full time employees who work during the week by cutting the wages of the part timers and casuals that work on weekends. The full time employees are very likely to be members of the union, while the part timers and casuals will probably not be members and if they are, they are also probably forced to do so. These weekend workers are the new underclass and are likely to be students who will not stay in the retail or hospitality sectors, therefore will not be long term members of the union. For the SDA, new and continuing members means money and influence. This may explain why they have withdrawn their support for weekend workers. Why would they support workers who have no future in their sector and will never become or remain members?
The needier of the community (student poverty is well documented) have been forced by this union to subsidise the wages of the less needy. This is a complete failure of any value held by the union movement. George Orwell would be vexed (or maybe chuffed at being proven right) to see a far right wing group claiming to represent the worker while actually scamming the poor.
Why do the ALP and the ACTU put up with such behaviour? Firstly, I am not sure they even knew about this scam. When I mentioned this to union and political leaders last year they seemed to be initially unaware and surprised. Now they know, what will they do – surely they cannot support a two tiered system.
We know that the high penalty rates forced on small business people is certainly creating a two tiered business system. It is forcing too many shops to close, or too many self-employed people to work very long hours. It costs jobs in the small business sector and decreases income for employees in big business. The high penalty rates for small manufacturers increases costs and places stress on innovators.
The best way to solve this is to create one award for small workplaces that has a simple, reasonable penalty rate system and easy to understand language. Importantly to ensure that penalty rates in each industry sector is uniform. No rorting the system or twisting pay rates to suit some and not others.
The Greens want to legislate for penalty rates, which we do not agree with; what they should do is ensure fairness and uniformity between businesses in the same sector. Otherwise the pigs of Animal Farm will continue to wallow in the trough of hubris and wealth while the majority of people languish and are left behind.