Member for Gilmore Ann Sudmalis says plans to slash Sunday and public holiday penalty rates are “not cutting wages”, rather “opening the door” on more jobs.
Ms Sudmalis has welcomed last week’s Fair Work Commission ruling that penalty rates for workers in the retail, fast food, hospitality and pharmacy industries would be reduced.
The changes, to be phased in from July 1, would see full-time and part-time retail workers have their Sunday penalty rates cut from 200 per cent to 150 per cent of their standard hourly rate.
Full-time hospitality workers would have their Sunday penalty rate drop from 175 per cent to 150 per cent.
“It’s not cutting wages, it’s opening the door for more hours of employment and in a regional area like Gilmore, with almost double the national youth unemployment, that’s a gift; that is a gift for our young people to get a foot in the door of employment,” Ms Sudmalis told the Mercury.
Asked if she supported the cuts, the MP reiterated the move was a good one for young workers and urged people to “look more broadly than our own hip pocket”.
“There are some people who are very dependent on those penalty rates, and I get that and I understand that, but there are some others who might be able to pick up an extra day,” she said.
“There’ll be opportunities for more people to get more work, rather than just people losing part of what they believe is ‘I’m working on a Sunday, I should get paid more’.
It’s not cutting wages, it’s opening the door for more hours of employment and in a regional area like Gilmore ... that’s a gift.Member for Gilmore, Ann Sudmalis
“To me, the benefits in this situation for the whole of our society outweigh the possible negative effects.”
The Liberal MP came under fire from the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU), who used a Facebook post last week to say she “did nothing” while “thousands of us have our pay slashed”.
Ms Sudmalis has refuted the suggestion, saying the decision was made by the Fair Work Commissioner, not the government.
“It hasn’t even gone to Parliament yet and I don’t know where the debate will go on it, but it [the ruling] came down after months … of review going into this particular document,” she said.
Despite not putting a submission into the FWC review of penalty rates, Ms Sudmalis said she did encourage businesses and the unemployed to state their cases.
As for the Facebook post and slogan, the MP said it was a “barefaced lie”.
JONES IN FIGHT TO PROTECT PENALTIES
“In this place they are called penalty rates, but the people who earn them just call it money in their pocket.”
That’s how Labor Whitlam MP Stephen Jones summed up the Fair Work Commission’s plan to reduce penalty rates during a Federal Parliament address on Monday.
Mr Jones’ comment came after Opposition Leader Bill Shorten foreshadowed legislation to stop the proposed cuts from coming into force.
“This morning [Monday], the Prime Minister had the opportunity to stand up for low-paid workers. He failed the test. He failed the 42,000 workers in retail, in hospitality, in food in my electorate … who rely on penalty rates for their take home pay,” he said.
The latest Illawarra and South Coast labour force data, from the ABS, reveals 23,700 people are employed – both full and part-time – in retail trade, while 18,000 work in the accommodation and food services industry.