Where were demonstrations when unions traded away workers' penalties?
The irony of today’s union penalty rates protests is that they are not ending with a mass demonstration outside their own offices, according to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland (CCIQ).
CCIQ says it is the union movement that has done more to harm workers’ pay packets on a Sunday than the Fair Work Commission decision to bring a balance to Sunday penalty rates.
Australia’s three largest employers are Coles, Woolworths, and McDonalds. They all operate under Enterprise Bargaining Agreements (EBA) that allow them to pay less in wages on a Sunday than any small business.
Enterprise bargaining is a legislated process of negotiation that occurs between the employer, employees and the relevant union to create an enterprise agreement.
Under union-negotiated agreements, Coles, Woolworths and McDonalds pay less penalties to a casual worker on a Sunday than a small business does.
For example, a 21-year-old casual worker at McDonalds will make about $25 an hour on Sunday, whereas those employed by independent small businesses are paid $34 an hour under the current award rates.
Those working in an IGA are paid about 22 per cent more than those working at Woolworths on a Sunday. Under the proposed changes, the rate for small independents is still 7 per cent higher than those secured under Woolworths’ EBA.
A CCIQ spokesman said deals done by unions are responsible for workers at Coles, Woolworths, and McDonalds being paid significantly less than the award wage on a Sunday.
“Small businesses on the other hand are required to pay the award wage on Sundays for their employees,” he said.
“The recent commission decision on penalty rates impacts most of the small business community of Queensland.
“The penalties were not abolished and small businesses did not want them abolished. But they do want balance – a balance between a fair wage for their workers and being able to open their doors and compete.
“The proposed penalty rates are sensible and balanced with what is commercially viable for small businesses to open on Sundays in the hospitality, retail, and fast food sectors.”
The CCIQ spokesman said small business continued to be the lifeblood of the economy with the 410,000 SMEs across the state employing more than a million people.
“They pay penalties at the award rate. They employ young people and they employ locals.
“According to CCIQ research, they will offer extra shifts, take on more employees and offer extra hours to existing staff – all the while paying a better wage than those negotiated by the unions.
“The unions’ opposition to the commission determination is absurd. These protests serve only to highlight that they are in fact the ones who slashed penalty rates by supporting the big end of town.
“You would assume unions would be up in arms about the nation’s biggest employers paying less than the award rate on a Sunday.
“If unions want to pretend they are campaigning for penalty rates, the first call they should make is to their own big backer, the "shoppies" union.
“Then they should order them to stop cutting sweetheart deals with big business, while small business continues to suffer.
“Where were the self-declared ‘defenders of workers’ rights’ when these agreements were being negotiated?
“Well, they we’re cosying up at the negotiating table and cutting a deal that eroded workers’ pay on a Sunday.”