top of page

Can we ever have certainty? Sunday Penalty Rates - the facts

The announcement by the leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten that Labor, if re-elected, would reverse the decision on implementation of the changes in Sunday penalty rates is very concerning to COSBOA. This statement shows a lack of confidence from Labor in the Fair Work system and creates instant uncertainty for businesses about future decisions

Peter Strong CEO of COSBOA said today “the Fair Work Commission has often received its share of criticism but in the main the system works and we know that the head of the FWC Justice Iain Ross is intent on reforms such as plain English industrial awards. He is also focused on streamlining of process which will be good for small business employers and their employees. But can we still have confidence in the system? Is it worth participating in managing improvements if decisions can just be overturned willy-nilly by parliament? We need the real facts to be out there. The modern political scourge that is the ad-hoc policy for political gain must be confronted.

A disappointing feature of the Sunday penalty rate debate is the falseness of the unions argument. The indisputable fact is that Sunday penalty rates were removed by the retail union years ago as part of their Enterprise Agreements negotiated with big business, and this must be acknowledged. There are further facts highlighted below.”

Mr Strong added “another more concerning issue is the attack on the small business community by the extreme of the union movement. We have illegal black bans placed on deliveries to shops and nasty social media campaigns aimed at closing businesses down. The reason for these attacks is that the owner of the business will make a simple statement that if the Sunday penalty rates for small business match the rates for big business then they will be able to open their shop and employ people on good wages. Parts of the union movement are behaving like far-right wing extremist groups such as skinheads and anarchists. This is a problem that must be confronted and stopped. We need a commissioner for the self-employed appointed to the Australian Human Rights Commission to stop the bullying.”

Sunday penalty rates FACTS –

An Enterprise Agreement negotiated by the retail union with Coles was shown by a Fair Work Australia review to have disadvantaged over 60% of workers who were worse off as a result of the agreement. It failed the “better off overall test”.

The statement that this is the first time workers have had their wages reduced is not true as many years ago up to 100 Enterprise Agreements negotiated by the SDA union (AKA The Shoppies or The Retail Union) involved lowering the wages of Sunday workers by decreasing their Sunday penalty rates to below award.

The left wing think tank, the McKell Institute, concedes that at least 50% of Sunday workers are already on the lower penalty rate. If a left wing think tank believes it is 50% we can assume that the figure is much closer to 80%.

The argument that Sunday penalty rates have always been at the current high rate is false as in three States and one territory the penalty rates increased from 150% to 200% when the fair work system was introduced in 2010.

The decision to change Sunday penalty rates to match those of big businesses was not made by government but by an independent body set up by Labor and the unions – the Fair Work Commission.

The five Commission members who made the decision were all appointed by a Labor government and cannot and should not be accused of some political bias.

The review took two years and involved over 200 submissions from unions, employers and others. The decision was a fair and independent decision based on facts and due diligence.

There will be likely around 60,000 new jobs created with penalty rates for small businesses matching the penalty rates for the larger businesses. (as researched by Restaurant and Catering Australia).

bottom of page