Campaign to protect penalty rates continues as decision nears

Unions campaigning to protect penalty rates are mobilising resources to respond to a Fair Work Commission decision on the issue, now likely in December or early 2017.

The Turnbull government’s consistent refusal to protect penalty rates is why unions remain on high alert in the fight to protect these payments for millions of Australians working unsociable hours.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has had many opportunities to make submissions in support of current penalty rates to the independent umpire, the Fair Work Commission. But at every opportunity, he, and more than 60 of his Coalition colleagues, have instead chosen to undermine penalty rates. Now a decision on penalty rates has been delayed for months, while the business lobby furthers its arguments with submissions.

Head of the Fair Work Commission, Iain Ross, recently floated a proposal for a “loaded rate”. This would see penalty rates removed and replaced with a slightly higher hourly rate of pay regardless of when you work. This destroys the concept of higher rates of pay for working unsociable hours. Unions believe this poorly-designed “one size fits all” concept could remove penalty rates by stealth and leave hundreds of thousands of weekend workers worse off.

In the meantime, unions and workers continue the community campaign to highlight that cutting penalty rates would have an immense negative impact on wages, spending power and the day to day lives and hopes of working people. Local businesses would also suffer. In Queensland alone, cutting the wages of 400,000 retail and hospitality workers would rip an estimated $1.2 billion annually from the state’s economy. 

No matter how many LNP politicians hit the airwaves to talk about the “24/7 economy” and “moving with the times”, Australians know that giving up weekends to work has a massive impact on your social and family life. We value our weekends - they mean kids’ netball and footy, or a cricket match. They mean barbeques with friends or time with your family. 

You can join the campaign at or visit for the latest activities and updates.

Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 121 No 8, 11 November 2016, p6