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You want me to work Sunday? Then pay what’s fair!

By Marcus Paul - 5 August 2015 98

cashier at till retail

So this debate has reared up again. Penalty rates.

Depending on which side of the argument you might be – I believe something needs to be done, and soon.

The rates (some upwards of $50 per hour) are quite simply unsustainable in the long term if we need a strong and growing small business sector.

However, this new push for an overhaul of penalty rates comes with a twist.

The latest discussion paper recommends making a distinction between penalty rates for medical and emergency workers and those for the retail and hospitality workers.

So, the question is – should emergency workers keep shift penalties, while taking from restaurant and retail workers? Is it a case of there now being no difference between Saturdays and Sundays?

Also, some argue that if workers have to front up for their job on a Sunday, then they should be adequately compensated.

To be honest, and hopefully without any disrespect, there is a big difference between a nurse administering treatment and a fashion store worker selling a shirt, even if both are working the Sunday shift.

One thing is certain in this debate. Unions will fire up, and phrases like ‘work choices’ will fly around. All of this will mean nought to your average struggling local small business owner, who has been complaining loud about affordability for such a long time.

Many I speak to say they can no longer open on a Sunday, or if they do, they won’t bring in staff at all instead working themselves or roping in family members to help.

It’s tough all round, and the number office and shop vacancies in our town centres is testament to this.

Would a change to penalty rates be a quick fix? Probably not but it might just help.

Should Canberra workers continue to receive weekend penalty rates?

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Marcus Paul is the host of Canberra Live 3pm weekdays on 2CC.

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98 Responses to
You want me to work Sunday? Then pay what’s fair!
vintage123 2:09 pm 05 Aug 15

rommeldog56 said :

I also can not see what the difference nowdays is between working on Saturdays & Sundays. It seems to me to be a hang over from decades long past about Sundays being a day of worship ?

Anyway, it is very unlikely that if Sunday rates were reduced, that prices would drop. More likely it will help ensure the sustainability of jobs.

But in relation to the sustainability of jobs, its not just wage rates.

What about the rapidly rising Commercial Annual Rates (10% avg pa for 20+ yeaes !), the artificially higer electricity prices caused by the ACT Govt’s green engergy policy, the cost of parking increaseing by 6% pa forever, the paid parking being applicable in Civic untill much later at night, etc, all of which are ACT Government charges that affect the viability of small businesses and so, the number of staff they employ. Encouraging a sustainable employment base is not all about wage rates & asking workers to forego wages/conditions to reduce employers costs.

And then broaden the GST base and hike it to 15%, resulting in the goods proportion forcing the price of items sky high whilst those who serve it, their, wages down by 50%, it’s all bad. Smells like the beginning of class warfare to me. “Make sure those coffee shops are open for my latte and dining out meals on weekends, don’t you know how busy I am during the week, I don’t care how much you get paid, just wait on me hand and foot”. Meanwhile the poor staffer is running around for 10 hrs on a Sunday at $9 an hour whilst their partner is doing the same in another store, as their kids are in $80 an hour nanny care (cause it’s sunday), smells like class warfare to me.

vintage123 1:59 pm 05 Aug 15

Zed said :

Penalty rates make up part of the negotiated conditions for employees.

I can see a benefit to employers if penalty rates are lessened. This is countered with a disadvantage to workers.

I cant understand why an employee should have their conditions eroded to benefit employers without any linked benefit in return. There hasn’t been any talk of increasing wage rates to compensate for loss of earnings.

Its easy to see this as what it is- another attack on work conditions that will effect lower paid workers. Once again, poor quality leadership presenting an option that benefits business at a cost that will be borne mainly by youth.

Z

+1

chewy14 1:34 pm 05 Aug 15

Garfield said :

Once upon a time housewives weren’t part of the workforce and were able to do the grocery shopping Monday – Friday. Saturdays were for family and Sundays were for God. This is the time period when penalty rates for weekend work were conceived. In today’s world many mothers work and we live in an extended hours 7 day a week world. The only differences I can see between weekends and weekdays are that public transport is substandard and so it can be more costly getting to work. If I was designing a penalty rate regime now I think it would be like this:

Casual loading would stay because casuals don’t get paid leave.
Overtime rates would go, but employees can’t be scheduled for more than 76 hrs pf, with any hours beyond that voluntary, and overtime pay would attract super support where it doesn’t now.
Weekend shifts would be paid at standard rates but attract a fixed allowance per shift – maybe $25 to cover public transport deficiencies.
Late night shifts would attract penalty rates as shift work has been shown to have health consequences that can be quite significant.

With this structure, if a business has difficulty getting staff to work weekends, evenings or overtime, they will offer more pay than the minimum. With lower weekend staffing costs it gives businesses a chance to expand their services or lower prices, both of which benefit the customers.

Exactly.

I think we should get rid of penalty rates for weekends and simply raise standard rates by the appropriate amount to offset the reduction in pay for workers, so it’s not simply a benefit to employers.

If businesses are having trouble getting staff on the weekend or for overtime, then they will simply have to pay more to attract staff but they shouldn’t be forced to pay 1.5 or 2 times the normal rate simply because it’s a Saturday or Sunday which has no real basis in our modern world and life.

rommeldog56 1:27 pm 05 Aug 15

I also can not see what the difference nowdays is between working on Saturdays & Sundays. It seems to me to be a hang over from decades long past about Sundays being a day of worship ?

Anyway, it is very unlikely that if Sunday rates were reduced, that prices would drop. More likely it will help ensure the sustainability of jobs.

But in relation to the sustainability of jobs, its not just wage rates.

What about the rapidly rising Commercial Annual Rates (10% avg pa for 20+ yeaes !), the artificially higer electricity prices caused by the ACT Govt’s green engergy policy, the cost of parking increaseing by 6% pa forever, the paid parking being applicable in Civic untill much later at night, etc, all of which are ACT Government charges that affect the viability of small businesses and so, the number of staff they employ. Encouraging a sustainable employment base is not all about wage rates & asking workers to forego wages/conditions to reduce employers costs.

Grail 1:21 pm 05 Aug 15

watto23 said :

I think penalty rates shouldn’t just apply because its a Sunday. If someone has already worked say 40 hours then I have no issues with penalty rates applying then or on public holidays.

Any award should also recognise that you shouldn’t schedule someone for shifts every day of the week unless they are on a four on/two off style contract like mine workers.

Awards should not be negotiable between employee and employer without a union or advocate being involved. There is simply too much room for employers to take advantage of insecure, gullible or ill-informed employees (I know toumhave kids to care for, but if you can’t work 12 hour shifts Monday through Thursday there just is no future for you here.).

Grail 1:16 pm 05 Aug 15

How are penalty rates “unsustainable”?

Zed 12:20 pm 05 Aug 15

Penalty rates make up part of the negotiated conditions for employees.

I can see a benefit to employers if penalty rates are lessened. This is countered with a disadvantage to workers.

I cant understand why an employee should have their conditions eroded to benefit employers without any linked benefit in return. There hasn’t been any talk of increasing wage rates to compensate for loss of earnings.

Its easy to see this as what it is- another attack on work conditions that will effect lower paid workers. Once again, poor quality leadership presenting an option that benefits business at a cost that will be borne mainly by youth.

Z

vintage123 11:48 am 05 Aug 15

Garfield said :

Once upon a time housewives weren’t part of the workforce and were able to do the grocery shopping Monday – Friday. Saturdays were for family and Sundays were for God. This is the time period when penalty rates for weekend work were conceived. In today’s world many mothers work and we live in an extended hours 7 day a week world. The only differences I can see between weekends and weekdays are that public transport is substandard and so it can be more costly getting to work. If I was designing a penalty rate regime now I think it would be like this:

Casual loading would stay because casuals don’t get paid leave.
Overtime rates would go, but employees can’t be scheduled for more than 76 hrs pf, with any hours beyond that voluntary, and overtime pay would attract super support where it doesn’t now.
Weekend shifts would be paid at standard rates but attract a fixed allowance per shift – maybe $25 to cover public transport deficiencies.
Late night shifts would attract penalty rates as shift work has been shown to have health consequences that can be quite significant.

With this structure, if a business has difficulty getting staff to work weekends, evenings or overtime, they will offer more pay than the minimum. With lower weekend staffing costs it gives businesses a chance to expand their services or lower prices, both of which benefit the customers.

In canberra “double time” for Sunday’s was floated on 25th of Jan 1949. It was for tramway workers and gas employees.

I think anyway you skin it, you need to apply this test to it;
How would it impact a family of four, two parents, two young children. Parents work in hospitality or retail on the low award wage, whereby they could both be called into weekend work and family assistance or childcare is not readily available. Difficult to assume this scenario in canberra, however it is quite normal in the rest of the country.

Rollersk8r 11:42 am 05 Aug 15

I agree there should be a distinction between the nurse who makes the lifestyle choice (and sacrifice) to work night shifts – and the teenage barista on Sunday double time.

Sitting somewhere between essential services and small business is big businesses (supermarkets, Bunnings, fast food chains, petrol stations) that can reliably trade 16 hours+ per day.

The whole issue boils down to whether cafes and restaurants can afford to open on the weekend…

Garfield 11:16 am 05 Aug 15

Once upon a time housewives weren’t part of the workforce and were able to do the grocery shopping Monday – Friday. Saturdays were for family and Sundays were for God. This is the time period when penalty rates for weekend work were conceived. In today’s world many mothers work and we live in an extended hours 7 day a week world. The only differences I can see between weekends and weekdays are that public transport is substandard and so it can be more costly getting to work. If I was designing a penalty rate regime now I think it would be like this:

Casual loading would stay because casuals don’t get paid leave.
Overtime rates would go, but employees can’t be scheduled for more than 76 hrs pf, with any hours beyond that voluntary, and overtime pay would attract super support where it doesn’t now.
Weekend shifts would be paid at standard rates but attract a fixed allowance per shift – maybe $25 to cover public transport deficiencies.
Late night shifts would attract penalty rates as shift work has been shown to have health consequences that can be quite significant.

With this structure, if a business has difficulty getting staff to work weekends, evenings or overtime, they will offer more pay than the minimum. With lower weekend staffing costs it gives businesses a chance to expand their services or lower prices, both of which benefit the customers.

vintage123 11:10 am 05 Aug 15

Alexandra Craig said :

Heavs said :

I’m curious as to why Sunday should be treated any differently from Saturday at all.

Maya123 said :

What is different about Sunday? How is it different to Saturday? Why should someone be paid more to work Sunday, than someone to work Saturday? That’s discriminatory.

Not sure if this is the case across all industries, but when I worked in retail as a kid we got the usual time and a half on Sundays, and on Saturdays we got our usual wage plus Saturday loading which worked out to be pretty much the same (maybe $1 an hour less) as Sunday time and a half.

It really depends on which state you are in, which industry you work for and what formal arrangement is in place as per the industry award wages system. Give or take a few hours, more often than not, the basic arrangements are 38 hr weeks, time and a half Saturday, time and a half Sunday for the first three hours then double time. Give or take. Some states such as Victoria have specific agreements which some workers agree to that alters the rates for Sunday’s. So at best the rules are a bit murky, and then consider some employers do not know or follow the rules, and then change things state to state and industry to industry and it all becomes a bit of a nightmare for all involved really.

Alexandra Craig 10:48 am 05 Aug 15

Heavs said :

I’m curious as to why Sunday should be treated any differently from Saturday at all.

Maya123 said :

What is different about Sunday? How is it different to Saturday? Why should someone be paid more to work Sunday, than someone to work Saturday? That’s discriminatory.

Not sure if this is the case across all industries, but when I worked in retail as a kid we got the usual time and a half on Sundays, and on Saturdays we got our usual wage plus Saturday loading which worked out to be pretty much the same (maybe $1 an hour less) as Sunday time and a half.

watto23 10:32 am 05 Aug 15

I think penalty rates shouldn’t just apply because its a Sunday. If someone has already worked say 40 hours then I have no issues with penalty rates applying then or on public holidays.

Maya123 9:35 am 05 Aug 15

What is different about Sunday? How is it different to Saturday? Why should someone be paid more to work Sunday, than someone to work Saturday? That’s discriminatory.

Heavs 8:59 am 05 Aug 15

I’m curious as to why Sunday should be treated any differently from Saturday at all.

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