Opinion: Our Sunday penalty rates are worth protecting.

Words by Olivia Savvas

What does the penalty rates decision really mean for uni students?

Anyone with a lefty friend on Facebook or those, like me, intently scouring InDaily for anything #auspol, would know that the Fair Work Commission has handed down the highly anticipated penalty rates decision. The real question for most of us, however, is how — if at all — this decision will affect us, and more importantly, how many beers we’ll really have to sacrifice with cuts to Sunday loading.

What actually happened?

Basically in 2015 big business lobby groups applied to cut the weekend pay of Australia’s working class. On Thursday, they succeeded in that application, broadening the wage gap even further and disadvantaging at least one million Australians.


Make no mistake, it was rich employers (and their comrades in the LNP) who fought tooth and nail to remove Sunday penalty rates, all under the pretense that it ‘costs too much’ to open their doors on a Sunday.

Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberal goverment promised to deliver on economic and job security.

What does it mean for me?

It is important to understand that Saturday rates will not be changed in accordance with yesterday’s decision. Sunday rates, however, will have a significant impact on workers:

Pharmacy — Full-time and part-timers working in pharmacy (between 7am and 9pm) will have their Sunday rates reduced from 200% to 150%, while casual rates will be reduced to 175%.

Fast Food — Sunday penalty rates for level one casual fast food workers under the award will be reduced from 150% to 125%. Full-time and part-time employees will have their Sunday rate reduced from 175% to 150%.

Hospitality — Sunday full-timers and part-timers will have their rates reduced to 150%. There will be no change to casuals.

Retail — Sunday penalty rates for full-time and part-timers will be reduced from 200% to 150% while casual rates will be reduced from 200 to 175%.

To put that into perspective, over a million workers paid in accordance with the Award will lose up to $6000 (or 857 beers at an average of $7 a pint) per year.

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Penalty rate slashing means more pouring of beers and less money to buy beers :(

Why does it matter?

This decision has done one thing and one thing only: made the rich get rich and the poor get poorer. How many of you have watched American TV shows and pitied those working in a tip-based economy?

Let’s face the facts, people, this decision made is a step towards a regressive, elitist society like the US. Jobs are not created. Less money in our pockets means spending is decreased. This does not enhance our economy.

Not-so-shockingly under the constraints of a LNP government, the decision was handed down one day after the ABS announced that Aussie wage growth has slowed to the worst in history.

The ACTU have described the wage cuts as the ‘worst since the Great Depression’ and acknowledged that regular Australian wages won’t be able to keep up with inflation or the housing market.

The Shop, Distributive and Allied employees Association and their response to the Fair Work Commission’s decision.

Why my conservative friends say penalty rates are ‘greedy’ and why they are wrong.

And finally, a word to my conservative friends (yes, I have them) who think the fight for penalty rates is greedy.

1. You have clearly never fed a family of four on a retailer’s wage.

2. You clearly aren’t a full-time student struggling to pay your own bills (strange concept I know) on a casual wage.

3. Until you’ve done either of these things, your opinion is neither valid nor relevant.

A decision may have been made but the fight for penalty rates is far from over. It is worth joining your relevant union to fight against unfair cuts to worker’s wages.

The Opposition Leader’s call to arms.

Disclosure: Olivia Savvas is a Board Director of the Adelaide University Union and an employee of the SDA.

Written by

Adelaide University student magazine since 1932. Edited by Nicholas Birchall, Felix Eldridge, Taylor Fernandez and Larisa Forgac. Email us at onditmag@gmail.com

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