Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2016 Week 01 Hansard (Thursday, 11 February 2016) . . Page.. 266 ..
their everyday lives around the guarantee of certain penalty rates. These are casual workers who may not be getting paid sick leave or annual leave. A reduction in penalty rates for these workers throws these careful calculations out the window. A reduction in penalty rates is asking some of the least paid and most vulnerable workers in our community to actually take a pay cut.
The ACT is known for our fabulous array of entertainment venues and eateries. We are indeed fortunate to have some fantastic cafes and restaurants here and we have a culture that is continuing to grow and expand. Certainly many customers are happy to benefit from the convenience that extended opening hours have provided. Many businesses are happy too to open their doors to profit from this demand. However, if the weekend penalty rates were reduced there would be less incentive for workers to take on these extra shifts and it is not implausible to think that in this vibrant city that we have seen growing rapidly we could see a decline in some of the food and entertainment offerings that we have come to know.
We need to recognise that these businesses hire mums, dads, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters who give up their evenings and their weekends to go to work. Penalty rates exist because we recognise that we are asking workers to work unsocial hours for our own convenience. In addition, we provide penalty rates because we recognise that these workers, whoever they may be, deserve to be paid accordingly for the work they do and the hours they put in and the times their shifts may start and finish.
There are renewed calls for the introduction also of enterprise contracts to fill the perceived gap between individual arrangements and enterprise agreements. It is said that the contracts would allow an employer to vary an award for an entire class of employees or a group of particular employees without having to negotiate individual flexibility arrangements with each of the individuals or to form an enterprise agreement. No ballot would be required for one of these enterprise contracts to be implemented.
Furthermore, unions would be unable to represent workers in the development of these contracts without employer consent. Finally, the agreement would be lodged with the Fair Work Commission but, unlike enterprise agreements, there would be no requirement for it to be approved by the Fair Work Commission before it came into operation.
This, if approved, would effectively mean that small to medium sized businesses with more than 20 employees would be able to make an offer of take-it-or-leave-it statutory contracts to new staff without requiring approval by the Fair Work Commission. How many in this place have sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, working in our local cafes, studying apprenticeships, working at their local supermarkets or the newsagents? What would we do if they came home and said that they had no say in their employee entitlements, their wages or accrued entitlements, whatever? What would our response be to that? I doubt that we would sit on our hands if we felt that we were disadvantaged; yet this proposal seeks to do exactly that—ensure disadvantage.