Labor and unions running ‘fear and smear’ penalty rates campaign


Debate over the Fair Work Commission’s decision to reduce penalty rates has set rich against poor, writes National Retail Association CEO Dominique Lamb.

As the Labor Party introduces yet another piece of legislation in Canberra to try and circumvent the penalty rate reductions due to take effect on from 1 July, it’s becoming increasingly clear many consumers are angry about an issue they don’t seem to actually understand.

I often hear comments from angry people about penalty rates having been thrown out, which is remarkable considering they weren’t and there was never any proposal to do so.

Or I hear people say they are furious with the Turnbull Government for stealing people’s penalty rates, which is crazy considering it had nothing to do with the Government.

Or I hear people say Saturday rates have also been slashed, which defeats the purpose of working weekend shifts. Again, that was never even a proposal, let alone part of the Fair Work Commission’s (FWC) decision.

As retail business owners know so well, the independent umpire’s decision modestly reduced Sunday penalty rates from double-time to either time-and-three-quarters or time-and-a-half across five out of Australia’s 122 awards.

It simply brought Sunday rates more in line with Saturday pay.

The FWC heard substantial evidence from all sides, weighed up each argument and applied the due care and attention such a decision deserved. It took the Commission (which was created by the Rudd Labor Government to ensure there was no political influence over such decisions) more than two years to reach its conclusion.

But given the very loud voices asserting this decision is all about enabling the rich to exploit the poor, its little wonder people are confused.

The ALP has echoed this sentiment from the beginning in an attempt to drive a greater wedge between employers and employees.

Despite the Federal Court ruling against the unions in their legal case appealing the FWC’s decision, the Labor Party is again pushing the rich versus poor argument by introducing another piece of legislation to the Parliament to try and block the FWC’s decision.

During yet another union protest about penalty rates at Old Parliament House last week, the ACTU’s Sally McManus said, “We will not accept corporations, big business and the very rich not paying their fair share of tax in our country”.

This is a totally flawed argument given the overwhelming majority of businesses affected by this decision are small businesses—those who give young people a start in the workforce; those who put their hands in their own pockets to provide a job for someone else.

When you throw in the fact that most of the owners of these businesses also work in them—particularly in retail—it’s clear just how nonsensical this argument really is.

But it’s far easier to run a fear and smear campaign against big business than it is to attack mums and dads struggling to keep their doors open in this difficult retail environment.

Dominique Lamb is the CEO of the National Retail Association.


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