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