Page 3007 - Week 10 - Tuesday, 15 September 2015

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unsocial hours has on social, family and general wellbeing. For the majority of Australians, Sunday exists as a day of relaxation and socialising, with 71 per cent of Australians working Monday to Friday only. As such, the overwhelming majority of Australians rely on weekend workers to serve them at restaurants, supermarkets, cafes and events during their time of social and community recreation—the very same recreation that weekend workers of course have to give up

Penalty rates are also good for the economy. They increase the pay of the lowest paid workers to buy basic necessities, and every extra dollar earned puts money back into the economy at a greater rate than someone on a higher income.

There have been several unsuccessful attempts to remove penalty rates from awards, and the addition of public holidays in some years will inevitably encounter a level of opposition. The Productivity Commission has recently released its draft review of the Fair Work Act 2009 for comment by stakeholders. Among other things, it recommends reducing Sunday penalty rates that are not part of overtime or shift work to Saturday rates in the hospitality, entertainment, retail, restaurant and cafe sectors.

I have serious concerns about this recommendation, as well as a number of others. This government will always stand up for our workers, whether they be public servants from the community sector, the construction industry or hospitality and retail. We will also stand up for our community and families, and this is why the government will always remain proactive in the protection of workers’ rights.

MADAM SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Ms Fitzharris.

MS FITZHARRIS: Minister, what other measures is the ACT government working on to improve benefits for workers?

MR GENTLEMAN: This government is strongly committed to ensuring the territory’s industrial relations framework provides for safe, healthy, fair and equitable workplaces and employment arrangements.

One of the things that we are currently working on is extending the coverage of the territory’s portable long service leave scheme to also include aged care and waste disposal workers. Portable long service leave schemes help to ensure that workers in industries where there is a high degree of staff turnover may still receive the benefit of long service leave.

The scheme responds to the fluidity of the modern-day Australian workforce. It recognises that workers very often do not stay in the same job for their whole working life but nonetheless remain committed to their professions, their careers and their industry. It supports workers who are willing to commit to the same industry and the benefits that longer-term commitment brings to that industry as well.

When it comes to choice of moving between employers to advance their career opportunities, workers covered by portable long service leave schemes know that they can retain continuity of their entitlement. They can plan their future knowing that they will not be disadvantaged, as would have been the case if the long service leave scheme was not portable.

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