The penalty rates case was put to rest by the decision made by Fair Work Commission on 23rd February, 2017. Following the decision, there will be a slight reduction of the Sunday penalty rates in various industries.
It will reduce public holiday penalty rates from 250 % to 225 % across the pharmacy, retail fast food and hospitality industries; reduce Sunday penalty rates in the fast food industry from 175 % to 150 % for casual staff and 150 % to 125 % for permanent staff.
It will also see a reduction of Sunday penalty rates in the hospitality industry from 200 % to 175 % for casuals and 150 % of permanent staff.
“This was a gigantic case that will have extensive consequences for the economy and industrial relations system more widely,” said Nigel Ward, CEO of Australian Business Lawyers & Advisors (ABLA). He issued this statement upon the decision being handed down.
Mr Ward said he had to give a comment about this issue in order to enlighten on the significance of this decision. Mr. Ward was accompanied by his Sydney-headquartered firm and he represented the Australian Business Industrial, NSW Business Chamber and Australian Chamber in the matter.
Mr Ward added that all parties have had their positions properly considered given the commission’s consideration of more than 6,000 public submissions and over 130 lay witnesses.
“If a merit case demonstrates a need for change, then the Fair Work Commission is prepared to reassess historical norms,” said Mr. Ward.
In the meantime, all employers are expected to welcome the decision’s realignment of Sunday penalty rates in the affected industries. Mr. Ward said that ABLA was very proud to have contributed in this public industrial and colossal case.
However, the decision was strongly opposed by Josh Bornstein, who is Maurice Blackburn employment law principal. “The outcome will drive a further wedge in the two class economy for working people and also leave thousands of Australians worse off,” said Mr. Bornstein on behalf of the firm.
He added that the decision was not fair because many Australians depended on the penalty rates to make ends meet.
He noted that workers in Australia are already experiencing record low wage growth. The decision made by the Fair Work Commission to cut holiday and Sunday penalty rates for some of the lowest paid workers in Australia is likely to worsen the rising economic problems of sluggish demand, insufficient tax revenue and wage inequality.
The principal said that the recent penalty rates decision will further disappoint the lowest paid workers in the country. He said that some of them are being underpaid through other precious work arrangements or forced onto sham contracts.
Mr. Bornstein called out for the federal government to initiate effective leadership and action that will effectively address wage inequality.
On the other hand, Maurice Blackburn said that he supports the movement in enlightening government policy and supporting the best results for all working Australians.