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

Marcus Paul 14 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!
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Ryoma 8:36 pm 08 Aug 15

I think this is actually a conversation that Australia needs to have. I can see pluses and minuses to both sides of the issue.

Now, before people go berserk, I should point out that I don’t like the idea of the American model at all, for any number of reasons. The first is that it has a potent psychological effect on the entire society, in essence (in my view) setting in concrete that ideals of economic purity are more important than treating people with respect, no matter what work they do, and essentially shifting the culture from one of “work to live” towards “live to work”.

The second is that while economic purists may point to economic theories that suggest unemployment rates in a nation with high wages will always be higher than those in a nation where market forces determine wages is disproven by the last 20 years of economic history. Australia’s unemployment rate has been below that of the United States for much of that time. I’m not suggesting that’s always true, but I am arguing that the opposite argument is also not conclusive – in both cases there must be more to it.

I also wonder if part of the reason Australia did not crash in the GFC is because our relatively high wages allowed aggregate economic demand to hold up more than it did in countries where people did not earn enough to boost their consumption even in good times (looking at the UK and the USA in this respect).

So, I hope that I’ve established I’m not a ruthless capitalist with no concern for the broader consequences of economic policy. But I do think that penalty rates should be looked at, and possibly cut in some cases.

My reasoning comes from having spent time in Japan, which seems to sit halfway between Australia and the USA on this front. Japan has no penalty rates that I know of, or if they do apply (I’m not sure), it appears to occur on an industry or even an enterprise level.

Japan has some of the world’s best customer service, and part of the reason for it is that there are enough staff to assist with customers in most places, even when it gets busy. What it also means is that the AVERAGE cost of living is lower than Australia’s in many places. Outside of Tokyo, in many places, on current exchange rates of about Y90/$A you can buy a meal for as little as 300yen (roughly $3.30), and a good meal for 1500 yen ($A16.50). A lot of other services are cheaper than their Aussie equivalents as well.

What this means in practical terms is that for the majority of Japanese people (not all, granted) is that even those people working in the convenience store or small cafe can afford to pay for most of these services because the average cost for everyday goods is affordable for them. And Japan differs from the USA because it has a good public health system, and a reasonably funded public education system.

By contrast, in Australia, people in professional jobs can afford to pay $25-$35 for a meal when necessary – but it’s a much tighter argument for those working in child care for only $18-$20/hour.
And for people working in service industries in Australia, how much more expensive (relative to their wages) is it to try to pay for professional services – dentists, medical specialists, or even trades like plumbers or sparkies?

The trouble with high minimum wages is that I think it may contribute to Australian levels of customer service, and stress for the people who are employed on the weekend, because there are just not enough other staff around to call upon for help.

In light of all this, rather than just screaming blue murder about the removal of penalty rates, what else could we do that would (a) ensure that people earnt a living wage, regardless of what day of the week they worked, and (b) helped to bring our overall cost structure down for everyone?

Could it be possible to apply a lower tax rate on the weekends (both days) across all industries, meaning that while employers did not need to pay more for staff on these days, but that the people working upon these days, got to keep more of what they earned? Conversely, those of us lucky enough to work standard hours may need to pay higher taxes to cover the cost of this. It is possible (especially with the removal of penalty rates as a trade-off for this) that such a move could actually help to create employment, and/or to help our customer service levels across many industries.

JC 5:23 pm 08 Aug 15

vintage123 said :

Umm, that is my point. If defence cannot work out that one role deserves a larger service allowance than the other then what hope in hell does civilian enterprises have.

Anyway of my two colleagues, have a guess which one was divorced twice in nine years, left in financial ruin and who now is very cynical and negative about that stage of his life. He is also the one who is in and out of St John of God and Hyson Green. Now we shouldn’t be exposing anyone to this kind of discrimination and treatment. The least we can do is pay them fairly for the work they do.

You clearly missed my point. I am saying that all of them are paid to work 24×7 so that is already factored into their pay. The fact that some only work 9-5 M-F is not the point, good luck to them of course.

vintage123 2:20 pm 08 Aug 15

curmudgery said :

Vintage123 – my posts are generally short and to the point. I don’t wish to burden the reader with a lot of ill-considered ramblings. I don’t know why you’re fixated with the idea that the business must be going bust or pear-shaped or I’m blaming wages. That’s just something you’ve made up.

I’m saying that in business, if the numbers don’t make sense then the proposition is a bad one – whether it’s about investing in a new advertising scheme or stocking a new line of product or opening on Sundays.

Think . . . then type.

Righto. I thought about it for five minutes.

So that I am crystal clear on this. Your three posts were basically saying, if the numbers don’t add up, then don’t start the business.

Ummmm…………..I am fairly sure I worked that out selling apples at age 5, but thanks anyway.

As for my ramblings, someone must like them……your government pays me handsomely for my views and extensive business knowledge.

But hey, it’s not me versus you, we all use this post for different agendas, my companies use it for feedback on concepts in preparation for lobbying government, and for this purpose it works quite well. I do offer some personal advice free of charge to those who care to take the time and effort to read my “ramblings”, but hey, if your not keen for the free info, by all means call the office and I will gladly sit down and have a chat.

V123

vintage123 2:07 pm 08 Aug 15

curmudgery said :

Vintage123 – my posts are generally short and to the point. I don’t wish to burden the reader with a lot of ill-considered ramblings. I don’t know why you’re fixated with the idea that the business must be going bust or pear-shaped or I’m blaming wages. That’s just something you’ve made up.

I’m saying that in business, if the numbers don’t make sense then the proposition is a bad one – whether it’s about investing in a new advertising scheme or stocking a new line of product or opening on Sundays.

Think . . . then type.

……….ok

snoopydoc 9:55 pm 07 Aug 15

Weekends are an anachronism. We should be paid penalty rates for working after hours, but not for weekends.

vintage123 5:58 pm 07 Aug 15

JC said :

vintage123 said :

JC said :

vintage123 said :

The more I think about it, Dept of Defence has had it correct the whole time, nil overtime and nil penalty rates with a 24/7 work roster. Yeah let’s just follow their lead.

I used to work for Defence and got quite good penalty rates. I was a civilian of course.

Though in the case of the ADF thye do get quite substantial compensation for the 24×7 lifestyle and if they need to go and do what they are there for get even more again. Not saying that is a bad or wrong thing however.

What compensation is that JC? Not sure their is actually any compensation directly linked to work hours. There are entitlements linked to other things though.

In fact I have two colleagues who both served with th military, as uniformed members. Both were of the same rank, and worked for 9 years. One did 24/7, which consisted of one 8 days total off a month, one day off between, rotating through 05-16, 14-23, 21-05, 07-17, 16-06. The other did no weekends and a M-F 08-17. Both same pay and allowances and entitlements.

They are all paid on a 24×7 basis even if that isn’t what they actually work.

Umm, that is my point. If defence cannot work out that one role deserves a larger service allowance than the other then what hope in hell does civilian enterprises have.

Anyway of my two colleagues, have a guess which one was divorced twice in nine years, left in financial ruin and who now is very cynical and negative about that stage of his life. He is also the one who is in and out of St John of God and Hyson Green. Now we shouldn’t be exposing anyone to this kind of discrimination and treatment. The least we can do is pay them fairly for the work they do.

curmudgery 5:02 pm 07 Aug 15

Vintage123 – my posts are generally short and to the point. I don’t wish to burden the reader with a lot of ill-considered ramblings. I don’t know why you’re fixated with the idea that the business must be going bust or pear-shaped or I’m blaming wages. That’s just something you’ve made up.

I’m saying that in business, if the numbers don’t make sense then the proposition is a bad one – whether it’s about investing in a new advertising scheme or stocking a new line of product or opening on Sundays.

Think . . . then type.

JC 2:56 pm 07 Aug 15

vintage123 said :

JC said :

vintage123 said :

The more I think about it, Dept of Defence has had it correct the whole time, nil overtime and nil penalty rates with a 24/7 work roster. Yeah let’s just follow their lead.

I used to work for Defence and got quite good penalty rates. I was a civilian of course.

Though in the case of the ADF thye do get quite substantial compensation for the 24×7 lifestyle and if they need to go and do what they are there for get even more again. Not saying that is a bad or wrong thing however.

What compensation is that JC? Not sure their is actually any compensation directly linked to work hours. There are entitlements linked to other things though.

In fact I have two colleagues who both served with th military, as uniformed members. Both were of the same rank, and worked for 9 years. One did 24/7, which consisted of one 8 days total off a month, one day off between, rotating through 05-16, 14-23, 21-05, 07-17, 16-06. The other did no weekends and a M-F 08-17. Both same pay and allowances and entitlements.

They are all paid on a 24×7 basis even if that isn’t what they actually work.

vintage123 2:15 pm 07 Aug 15

curmudgery said :

Oh what a wonderful world some people live in! I am bemused to see how much gobbledegook some people can extrapolate from a post.

This thread is about penalty rates, business opening hours and vacant buildings in Canberra and my post, if you care to read it slowly, simply points out that there are factors affecting people that are not of the employers making or responsibility nor under their control.

It goes on to suggest that if a proposition isn’t cost-effective, business owners are unlikely to do it (and nor would you). It doesn’t mean that the business, as someone suggested, is going broke. What nonsense.

Next, the income on ‘good’ days is amortised over the whole trading period i.e. good trading days offset the bad trading days (they’re the days when you’re in your cubicle checking your horoscope). Did you know that the rent, wages and utilities don’t fall on bad trading days? No, they don’t. Do you see how that works?

As for the appalling cost of pizza slices in New York, well … I think we should invade.

But your posts are somewhat vague, and I am guessing like myself, we are not sure if you are a business owner, or if you have had any experience running a business.

There are many respondents like myself who have many years owning and running both successful and not so successful businesses.

My point is that if things are going pear shaped and if you are blaming the wages, then you are not competant to be running the business.

curmudgery 1:56 pm 07 Aug 15

Oh what a wonderful world some people live in! I am bemused to see how much gobbledegook some people can extrapolate from a post.

This thread is about penalty rates, business opening hours and vacant buildings in Canberra and my post, if you care to read it slowly, simply points out that there are factors affecting people that are not of the employers making or responsibility nor under their control.

It goes on to suggest that if a proposition isn’t cost-effective, business owners are unlikely to do it (and nor would you). It doesn’t mean that the business, as someone suggested, is going broke. What nonsense.

Next, the income on ‘good’ days is amortised over the whole trading period i.e. good trading days offset the bad trading days (they’re the days when you’re in your cubicle checking your horoscope). Did you know that the rent, wages and utilities don’t fall on bad trading days? No, they don’t. Do you see how that works?

As for the appalling cost of pizza slices in New York, well … I think we should invade.

vintage123 12:52 pm 07 Aug 15

JC said :

vintage123 said :

The more I think about it, Dept of Defence has had it correct the whole time, nil overtime and nil penalty rates with a 24/7 work roster. Yeah let’s just follow their lead.

I used to work for Defence and got quite good penalty rates. I was a civilian of course.

Though in the case of the ADF thye do get quite substantial compensation for the 24×7 lifestyle and if they need to go and do what they are there for get even more again. Not saying that is a bad or wrong thing however.

What compensation is that JC? Not sure their is actually any compensation directly linked to work hours. There are entitlements linked to other things though.

In fact I have two colleagues who both served with th military, as uniformed members. Both were of the same rank, and worked for 9 years. One did 24/7, which consisted of one 8 days total off a month, one day off between, rotating through 05-16, 14-23, 21-05, 07-17, 16-06. The other did no weekends and a M-F 08-17. Both same pay and allowances and entitlements.

chewy14 12:44 pm 07 Aug 15

Maya123 said :

rubaiyat wrote, “If you want a USA lifestyle, move there and take the rough with the smooth.”
On most subjects normally I like what you write and consider your writing sensible, but on this subject you are getting carried away and silly.
I have not read anywhere of any suggestion to drop the basic hourly rate, so not a good comparison. Only to drop the Sunday rate to the basic rate. If market forces are otherwise, a higher rate will be paid. From Wikipedia I read the following, “The American federal government requires a wage of at least $2.13 per hour be paid to employees that receive at least $30 per month in tips.”
I don’t believe anyone has suggested, or you have any facts that suggest that Australian wages will be dropped to $2.13 an hour; your “USA lifestyle” suggestion.

Yeah but who wants to have a reasonable debate when you can chuck cute strawmen around?

Maya123 11:31 am 07 Aug 15

rubaiyat wrote, “If you want a USA lifestyle, move there and take the rough with the smooth.”
On most subjects normally I like what you write and consider your writing sensible, but on this subject you are getting carried away and silly.
I have not read anywhere of any suggestion to drop the basic hourly rate, so not a good comparison. Only to drop the Sunday rate to the basic rate. If market forces are otherwise, a higher rate will be paid. From Wikipedia I read the following, “The American federal government requires a wage of at least $2.13 per hour be paid to employees that receive at least $30 per month in tips.”
I don’t believe anyone has suggested, or you have any facts that suggest that Australian wages will be dropped to $2.13 an hour; your “USA lifestyle” suggestion.

JC 11:22 am 07 Aug 15

curmudgery said :

It’s not the employer’s fault that child care is expensive or that public transport is poor or that someone wanting an income is also trying to juggle family life, social life and a thesis on the inner workings of the criminal mind. It’s not the employer’s making or responsibility.

An hour’s work is an hour’s work; nothing more – and margins are tight. If that hour costs 1.5 times that of the previous hour, does it generate 1.5 times the income? No?

Well actually the answer is YES. During the normal working week many of the industries they are talking about dropping penaty rates from are significantly quieter then they are at weekends. At weekends these people come out to shop, drink and eat.

So quite clearly the amount of money earned per employee is actually different based on day of week.

Personally I am astonished by some of the arguments in this thread for cutting rates and in particular people justifying some industries to keep it and some to cut it. Clearly I am against it, but if it is done it needs to be for everyone. Afterall the value of a Sunday is the same weather one is a 9-5 M-F worker, someone dong 24×7 shift or those that work on weekends to cater for those that are ‘lucky enough’ to have the weekend off. And whilst these arrangements have their origins in history and religion the way society has moved means these days are just as important, but for different reasons.

JC 11:17 am 07 Aug 15

vintage123 said :

The more I think about it, Dept of Defence has had it correct the whole time, nil overtime and nil penalty rates with a 24/7 work roster. Yeah let’s just follow their lead.

I used to work for Defence and got quite good penalty rates. I was a civilian of course.

Though in the case of the ADF thye do get quite substantial compensation for the 24×7 lifestyle and if they need to go and do what they are there for get even more again. Not saying that is a bad or wrong thing however.

Antagonist 11:00 am 07 Aug 15

simsim said :

It’s commonly understood in our society that the weekend is a time for people to socialise, to catch up with friends, family and to recharge their batteries. Food services are one of the great beneficiaries of this social standard – try going to a suburban cafe on Monday to Friday and see how easy it is to get a table for breakfast, versus trying to brave the hordes on a Saturday or Sunday. Yet there’s this continuing reluctance to understand that with this great benefit of additional custom comes the requirement to compensate your workers for making them work, literally, unsocialble hours (hours that impinge on the ability of the staff to socialise).

+1. I spent quite a few years working in hospitality on the side. The majority of my shifts fell on Wednesday through Sunday, and always at times when my mates were getting together or going out. These were also the times when things were at their busiest and we were getting as much money in the till as possible. Ironically, it was also the time when business owners/managers were most likely to be at home relaxing. Those weekend penalty rates mean an awful lot to the staff who work hard for them. And why shouldn’t a penalty rate apply? Afterall, the working week for the average Joe is supposed to be 08:30 to 17:00 Monday to Friday. Shouldn’t *ALL* people who work outside of normal ‘business’ hours be compensated accordingly?

If weekend penalty rates mean the difference between a business thriving or sinking, then let it sink. The business was not doing well in the first place. It might help to thin out the oversupply of coffee shops and nail salons.

NoImRight 9:53 am 07 Aug 15

Ill be interested to see if this goes through whether cafes and restaurants actually do drop the “surcharges” that apply on Sundays and public holidays.

simsim 8:18 am 07 Aug 15

It’s commonly understood in our society that the weekend is a time for people to socialise, to catch up with friends, family and to recharge their batteries. Food services are one of the great beneficiaries of this social standard – try going to a suburban cafe on Monday to Friday and see how easy it is to get a table for breakfast, versus trying to brave the hordes on a Saturday or Sunday. Yet there’s this continuing reluctance to understand that with this great benefit of additional custom comes the requirement to compensate your workers for making them work, literally, unsocialble hours (hours that impinge on the ability of the staff to socialise).

Now, there is a different talk to have about why Saturday and Sunday are treated differently, and these are indeed fair conversations to have. But let’s not pretend that weekends are identical to weekdays.

rubaiyat 5:55 am 07 Aug 15

The run down ex Clouston Hall 185 sq m shopfront in dying Garema Place is currently being offered at $120,000/year.

Add repairs and fitouts ($300k-$500k depending on quality, possibly double that for a quality restaurant) and you can see where most of the money goes for a retail/dining business.

rubaiyat 11:44 pm 06 Aug 15

If we look at the problem with both eyes, not just the right, businesses should be asking why, given the high vacancy rates in the City, property managers are allowing sites to remain vacant with rents set at such ludicrously unsustainable levels?

Why have the property managers allowed so much low grade unimproved commercial space to dominate Canberra?

If anyone should take a haircut they should. They have let property rot for decades. Squeezing out every dollar in the good times with only minimal maintenance and improvements.

I know from trying to lease an ordinary shopfront for a business in humble Weston, that appeared to have been vacant for a while, rent is a far greater burden on doing business than the comparatively piddling extra for the times when you are getting the maximum return on your employees.

When rent in Sydney reaches $11,560 per sq m per year and in Melbourne $8,700, what the heck difference do staff penalty rates matter?

But business and their apologists figure staff are an easy target.

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