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Why Sunday penalty rates should stay

By Kim Fischer - 26 May 2016 32

Cafe

Although the majority of people no longer go to church on Sundays, it is still mostly a day of leisure. ABS statistics show that Sunday remains an overwhelmingly non-work day. Even though Sunday working participation rates have more than doubled, still only 20% of currently employed working age people work on a Sunday compared with 80% on weekdays.

The same statistics found that working on Sundays reduces family leisure time by over two hours, inclusive of reduced parents’ time with their children and reduces leisure time in the company of friends by an hour and a half.

Conversely, while there is some evidence that there are lower employment rates because of Sunday penalty rates, it is a less settled issue.

Although it is a cliché, Australia does have the idea of ‘a fair go’ deep in its genes. Early governors shared food among soldiers and prisoners evenly to prevent unrest and appointed ex-convicts as senior public servants and magistrates, unthinkable under the rigid class hierarchy from England.

Australia’s world-leading Court of Conciliation and Arbitrations heard the famous Harvester Case of 1907, where the first minimum wage was set at the amount required for “a man to support a family of 5”. In the judgment handed down, Judge Higgins expressed a sentiment that many of us still feel strongly today:

The standard of “fair and reasonable” must [be] the normal needs of the average employee, regarded as a human being living in a civilized community …

I cannot think that an employer and a workman contract on an equal footing … when the workman submits to work for a low wage to avoid starvation or pauperism … [Wages must be] sufficient to insure the workman food, shelter, clothing, frugal comfort [and] provision for evil days …

But the concept of a “fair go” can cut both ways. Even though penalty rates date back to the same 1907 judgment, Sunday penalty rates have been a hot-button issue this election.

People on both sides claim to only be motivated by “fairness”.

Those against penalty rates see it as “unfair” for people to be paid a huge premium for the same work when Sunday no longer is the “day of rest”.

On the flip side, people argue that those receiving Sunday wages are disproportionately likely to be working on or near minimum hourly rates were it not for the “bonus” given by penalty rates.

A 1981 inquiry established two reasons for the payment of penalty rates:

  • compensation to employees for “disability or inconvenience” arising from the time of day or day of the week on which they are required to work
  • a deterrent to employers who require employees to work at times or on days regarded as being outside the prescribed times of ordinary working hours or beyond what are regarded as ordinary working days

The idea of “disability” here means that people are unable to undertake activities they might otherwise wish to do, such as play sport on the weekend. A 2014 split decision by the Fair Work Commission found that:

… Sunday penalty rates may have a limited effect on employment, particularly in relation to owner-operators working on Sundays in preference to engaging staff for additional hours … [the idea that] the level of disability for working on Sundays is no higher than that for Saturdays is rejected. The position has not changed since a Full Bench of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission considered this issue in 2003. Working on Sundays involves a loss of a day of family time and personal interaction upon which special emphasis is placed by Australian society.

On balance I agree that Sunday penalty rates are still worth protecting – but as Bill Shorten says, having an independent umpire like the Fair Work Commission to ensure that decisions are based on facts rather than political pandering is more important still.

Kim Fischer is an ACT Labor candidate for the seat of Ginninderra in the 2016 ACT Legislative Assembly election.

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Why Sunday penalty rates should stay
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chewy14 1:30 pm 02 Jun 16

No_Nose said :

Rollersk8r said :

A_Cog said :

HenryBG said :

If the shop shuts Sundays no body gets paid. Something is more than nothing.

If people don’t get paid they can’t shop and the whole economic tanks.

As the café owner on Q&A pointed out, rather than giving him personally a pathetic bribe to vote Liberal whilst really giving huge amounts of money to the wealthy hoarders, let everybody get enough money to buy his coffee so everyone is better off, not just a miserable spiteful few.

Henry Ford raised his workers’ wages so that they could actually afford the cars they were making.

People who know nothing of economics think money is like bricks that you pile up in YOUR backyard. It is actually like water. The more it circulates the more it rains for everyone.

None of the above is an argument for penalty rates, it’s purely an argument for a higher minimum wage.

Try again.

Pay attention. There was no mention of penalty rates it was: “Something is more than nothing.”

“Something is more than nothing” is what has dragged down the American economy where wage reductions mean the working class have had wages reduced since the late ’60s, and 45 million people live in poverty, 10.5 million of those whilst actually working.

In the same time the super rich have become the super, super rich paying increasingly less tax and hoarding their money rather than spending it for the benefit of the economy which is what poorer people do.

Pay attention, the title of this article: “Why Sunday Penalty Rates Should Stay”.

rubaiyat 11:12 am 02 Jun 16

Rollersk8r said :

A_Cog said :

HenryBG said :

If the shop shuts Sundays no body gets paid. Something is more than nothing.

If people don’t get paid they can’t shop and the whole economic tanks.

As the café owner on Q&A pointed out, rather than giving him personally a pathetic bribe to vote Liberal whilst really giving huge amounts of money to the wealthy hoarders, let everybody get enough money to buy his coffee so everyone is better off, not just a miserable spiteful few.

Henry Ford raised his workers’ wages so that they could actually afford the cars they were making.

People who know nothing of economics think money is like bricks that you pile up in YOUR backyard. It is actually like water. The more it circulates the more it rains for everyone.

None of the above is an argument for penalty rates, it’s purely an argument for a higher minimum wage.

Try again.

Pay attention. There was no mention of penalty rates it was: “Something is more than nothing.”

“Something is more than nothing” is what has dragged down the American economy where wage reductions mean the working class have had wages reduced since the late ’60s, and 45 million people live in poverty, 10.5 million of those whilst actually working.

In the same time the super rich have become the super, super rich paying increasingly less tax and hoarding their money rather than spending it for the benefit of the economy which is what poorer people do.

chewy14 10:41 am 02 Jun 16

Rollersk8r said :

A_Cog said :

HenryBG said :

If the shop shuts Sundays no body gets paid. Something is more than nothing.

If people don’t get paid they can’t shop and the whole economic tanks.

As the café owner on Q&A pointed out, rather than giving him personally a pathetic bribe to vote Liberal whilst really giving huge amounts of money to the wealthy hoarders, let everybody get enough money to buy his coffee so everyone is better off, not just a miserable spiteful few.

Henry Ford raised his workers’ wages so that they could actually afford the cars they were making.

People who know nothing of economics think money is like bricks that you pile up in YOUR backyard. It is actually like water. The more it circulates the more it rains for everyone.

None of the above is an argument for penalty rates, it’s purely an argument for a higher minimum wage.

Try again.

All arguments for dropping penalty rates are arguments for making higher profits by paying people less. Let’s not pretend otherwise. There is no increased employment, simple arithmetic tells you that it doesn’t not stack up.

The only other argument is the dog in the manger argument of “I don’t get penalty rates therefore you shouldn’t either”.

This is totally incorrect and you don’t even have to go outside this thread to see examples of companies that don’t pay penalty rates where it isn’t about paying people less.

To make the argument that weekend penalty rates should exist, you have to make the argument that the government should control people’s individual preferences and the market because Sunday and Saturday are not only fundamentally different days to Monday-Friday but also that they’re fundamentally different to each other.

And by fundamentally different, i don’t mean “i like to watch footy on the weekend” or “I need the extra cash from penalty rates”.

rosscoact 10:09 am 02 Jun 16

Rollersk8r said :

A_Cog said :

HenryBG said :

If the shop shuts Sundays no body gets paid. Something is more than nothing.

If people don’t get paid they can’t shop and the whole economic tanks.

As the café owner on Q&A pointed out, rather than giving him personally a pathetic bribe to vote Liberal whilst really giving huge amounts of money to the wealthy hoarders, let everybody get enough money to buy his coffee so everyone is better off, not just a miserable spiteful few.

Henry Ford raised his workers’ wages so that they could actually afford the cars they were making.

People who know nothing of economics think money is like bricks that you pile up in YOUR backyard. It is actually like water. The more it circulates the more it rains for everyone.

None of the above is an argument for penalty rates, it’s purely an argument for a higher minimum wage.

Try again.

All arguments for dropping penalty rates are arguments for making higher profits by paying people less. Let’s not pretend otherwise. There is no increased employment, simple arithmetic tells you that it doesn’t not stack up.

The only other argument is the dog in the manger argument of “I don’t get penalty rates therefore you shouldn’t either”.

chewy14 7:22 am 02 Jun 16

A_Cog said :

HenryBG said :

If the shop shuts Sundays no body gets paid. Something is more than nothing.

If people don’t get paid they can’t shop and the whole economic tanks.

As the café owner on Q&A pointed out, rather than giving him personally a pathetic bribe to vote Liberal whilst really giving huge amounts of money to the wealthy hoarders, let everybody get enough money to buy his coffee so everyone is better off, not just a miserable spiteful few.

Henry Ford raised his workers’ wages so that they could actually afford the cars they were making.

People who know nothing of economics think money is like bricks that you pile up in YOUR backyard. It is actually like water. The more it circulates the more it rains for everyone.

None of the above is an argument for penalty rates, it’s purely an argument for a higher minimum wage.

Try again.

Mordd 1:41 am 02 Jun 16

Rollersk8r said :

Penalty rates should be paid to people who are working more than 35 hours, or late at night, or starting ridiculously early. 8.30 am to 6 pm work should be pretty much a flat rate on any day of the week. It isn’t as though anyone much is missing out on church. And if people actually need or want to take their kids to sport on Saturday – they’ll take them to sport.

My friday shift finishes at 9:30pm, I don’t get a loading for that, and it doesn’t bother me either. Maybe you can share your thoughts on this with the SDA though.

As for sport, kids sport is generally on saturday yes, but most adult games are often on sunday, partly because the kids have all the fields on saturday. This is true for example of all the all-ages mens and womens soccer played in Canberra. So being forced to work Sunday would prevent some people from being able to play sport themself. That is why both Saturday and Sunday are important, and if you have to work 1 of the weekend days then you should have the other off unless you are being paid a ridiculously high loading to compensate.

rubaiyat 10:02 pm 01 Jun 16

HenryBG said :

If the shop shuts Sundays no body gets paid. Something is more than nothing.

If people don’t get paid they can’t shop and the whole economic tanks.

As the café owner on Q&A pointed out, rather than giving him personally a pathetic bribe to vote Liberal whilst really giving huge amounts of money to the wealthy hoarders, let everybody get enough money to buy his coffee so everyone is better off, not just a miserable spiteful few.

Henry Ford raised his workers’ wages so that they could actually afford the cars they were making.

People who know nothing of economics think money is like bricks that you pile up in YOUR backyard. It is actually like water. The more it circulates the more it rains for everyone.

Masquara 8:18 pm 01 Jun 16

Penalty rates should be paid to people who are working more than 35 hours, or late at night, or starting ridiculously early. 8.30 am to 6 pm work should be pretty much a flat rate on any day of the week. It isn’t as though anyone much is missing out on church. And if people actually need or want to take their kids to sport on Saturday – they’ll take them to sport.

devils_advocate 11:48 am 01 Jun 16

creative_canberran said :

Perhaps Kim should chat with the largest ALP affiliate union in the country, and ask them why they didn’t think penalty rates were important enough not to negotiate away.

http://www.smh.com.au/business/workplace-relations/hamburgled-mcdonalds-coles-woolworths-workers-lose-in-union-pay-deals-20160518-goycw5.html

It seems the union cares more about getting members to pay them, than getting employers to pay their employees. Hardly surprising.

Unions are basically institutionalised corruption that chooses to clothe itself in the rhetoric of providing a fair go (but only for the privileged few). Politicians that rely on these organisations to fund their own existence are equally culpable.

Mysteryman 3:01 pm 31 May 16

Perhaps Kim should chat with the largest ALP affiliate union in the country, and ask them why they didn’t think penalty rates were important enough not to negotiate away.

http://www.smh.com.au/business/workplace-relations/hamburgled-mcdonalds-coles-woolworths-workers-lose-in-union-pay-deals-20160518-goycw5.html

It seems the union cares more about getting members to pay them, than getting employers to pay their employees. Hardly surprising.

gazket 9:49 pm 30 May 16

If the shop shuts Sundays no body gets paid. Something is more than nothing.

JC 2:29 pm 30 May 16

bj_ACT said :

ungruntled said :

Cantoangel said :

BrendanH said :

Garfield said :

Surely it would be better to get rid of Saturday and Sunday penalty rates, but raise the hourly pay rate to compensate for this,
.

Like McDonalds have done, but now getting canned for underpaying.

This has been a feature of many awards for quite a few years now. The SDA union has negotiated quite a few agreements and EBAs that see Sunday rates paid at 150% and Saturdays at normal rates in return for a higher base rate. They recognised that lower penalty rates were more likely to see more people employed, which is a win for the unions, good for the business and good for the people who have a job.

Same where I work. The shift workers, and no I am not one of them get around 30% extra regardless of days worked, including holidays.

I don’t have an issue with it. They are making sacrafices that I for example are not willing to take and as far as I am concerned should get renumerated for it.

Same too with weekend and night workers. They are working outside hours the MAJORITY don’t, outside the hours the majority of the country works too, and as far as I am concerned should get paid. Unless on a fixed roster system like where I work, which ensures an even spread of nights and weekends, I think penalty rates are the way to go. Take for example those that ONLY work weekends.

but it makes sense that a business can set and choose what works for the business and its workers.
You say that shift works get a 30% loading but that isn’t mandated by any laws it just happens.

Point is we don’t need a Sunday penalty rate, if a business needs to get more staff on weekends then so be it they can choose to do it sat Sunday or both. However mandating it so a business has to decide to pay extra or close is just crazy.

Not quite. The extra payment for shift workers is mandated; however, the industrial agreement allows it to be done via a shift work loading for those that work shifts, as opposed to penalties. And the 30% comes from calculating how much extra on average one would earn on penalties. In fact, if I recall, penalties would earn one 29%, but the workers are getting 30%, however the actual processing is simplified. Back when I used to do shift work we had to put in time sheets every fortnight which had to be manually processed, now it is a tick box in the HR system and automated. So a cost saving, which I guess is reflected in the 1% extra for going to an annualised rate.

End result is people are getting paid more to work weekends and nights.

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