Page 864 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 22 March 2017

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Labor and the union movement will always stand up for workers in our community. In contrast, we see a divided opposition with several Canberra Liberals at odds with one another on this issue. Claiming that this is an issue for the federal parliament and that therefore we should not be discussing the rights of Canberra workers is absolute nonsense. As elected representatives we have a responsibility to stand up and advocate for our constituents, especially low paid, vulnerable members of our community. At a time when the Liberals both locally and federally are running their anti-worker agendas, the ACT government is doing all it can to fight these brutal cuts.

Canberrans can trust that Labor will always stand up and fight for their working conditions. We have a strong track record in doing so, and I know all of my colleagues are passionate to continue this work. This motion is of significant importance to the lives of Canberrans, and I urge all members to support it.

MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (11.52): I would like to speak in support of this motion of calling on the federal government to intervene and protect penalty rates for workers in the hospitality, retail and pharmacy sectors following cuts announced by the Fair Work Commission. The impact on workers is clear: cuts to penalty rates will not lead to more opportunities for people working in these service sectors. They will simply work to boost the profits of some of Australia’s largest companies and shareholders. Penalty rates are recognition of the unsociable hours that we ask many workers in our service industries to work, and I spoke about this yesterday when we were discussing the issue of income security and the consequence of people having to work on weekends and the impacts on families and lifestyles.

While many of us enjoy being able to go to a cafe or go shopping on weekends, this obviously requires staff at these cafes and shops to be at work while the rest of us are enjoying a day off. The recent well-publicised example of a manager at one of Australia’s major supermarket chains asking their employees to work several hours of unpaid overtime in return for pizza is symptomatic of the ongoing erosion of protections and certainty that are provided in our workforce. If it is the case that working on weekends and after hours is becoming more normalised, it is a further sign of the precarious nature of work in some of these industries.

We know that working in the retail and hospitality sectors is often the entry point for many of Canberra’s young people into the workforce. Employees in the retail and hospitality sectors are disproportionately young people. Working after hours or on weekends is sometimes the only way students can earn an income to support themselves while they complete their studies. I am sure many people in this place have lived that experience. It is that classic case where sometimes you get chatting to somebody in a store or in a restaurant and they tell you about the incredible piece of work they are doing at university, the PhD and the topic they are doing. We all know of those examples.

With that in mind it is clear that cuts to penalty rates will increase the burden on students as they work towards completing their studies with ambitions of improving their career prospects with tertiary or vocational qualifications. That is not a very complex point to understand. If you cut the rate per hour there are only two outcomes:

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