Weekend Wars – Liberals attack working families and penalty rates

Posted: March 12, 2014 in Politics

There is a debate going on currently within the community about workplace relations and in particular penalty rates.

I am sure that many of you that are unfortunate enough to be represented by a Coalition MP will have a similar tale of woe.

Those that don’t should take note on this attack on working families and working conditions by a government that seems to care nothing for the 99% and greatly for the profit margins of the 1%.

Recently my local Federal MP, Liberal Party member Alex Hawke threw his considerable lack of weight into the debate.

Alex came out as supporting those within the Liberal Party who would like to see the penalty rates axed or lowered to make thing easier on business. Alex claims to have spoken to several small businesses who are finding it hard to open on a Sunday, or not opening at all on the Sunday as they are doing it tough.

Easing the penalty rates that these businesses are legally obliged to pay will clearly lower the costs for these businesses, that much is obvious.

What this issue highlights to me is that whenever there is an issue that is too complex or too hard to address the Liberal Party always seems to come down hard on the worker.

Do working families mean that little to the Liberal Party?

It seems hypocritical of them to always be claiming to be looking out for working families when they seem to attack their hip pocket at every available opportunity.

Once again Alex Hawke has tried to tackle a topic that is above his pay grade and intelligence level, and once again it would seem that Alex’s research on the matter has likely been whatever he has not had to get out of his comfy office chair to find.

Tony Abbott, Eric Abetz and the Coalition, as well as glove puppets like Alex Hawke would like the working families of Australia to know that they have been put on notice.

What they are seeking to do is attack your salaries as we have seen with SPC Ardmona, attack your penalty rates as we are now seeing, and attacking those who will seek to defend your working rights for you by smearing the union movement via a Royal Commission.

Meanwhile “cutting red tape” as they put it has now made it easier for employers to bring in and exploit foreign workers on 457 visa’s.

The Coalition want you to know that if work hard and do the extra hours to raise your family, put the kids through uni, or just to pay the mortgage that they don’t think you should be rewarded for your efforts.

Those relying on penalty rates to survive through university and still have time to study, the Coalition would like you to take out a bigger loan to get you through, work extra shifts and cut back on your study, or bleed your family dry.

I understand that paying workers for working on their weekends and late at night can be expensive for employers. I realise that it makes it hard for struggling companies like McDonalds, Woolworths and Coles to report profits measured in trillions of dollars rather than the billions that they have to suffer under this cruellest of legal requirements.

An empty car park outside a struggling Woolies store.

An empty car park outside a struggling Woolies store.

The inconvenient truth that these Liberal Party puppets and puppeteers don’t want to talk about is that it is a far more complex issue than just paying someone extra to give up their Sunday.

The reason that shops are busiest on Saturdays and Sundays is because people like their weekends. It also stands to reason that asking somebody to give that up weekend is a bigger ask than asking someone to work 9 to 5 on a weekday.

As someone who has worked in the retail supply chain for around 25 years I have a vastly different understanding of what is making the small retailer do it tough.

One of the big issues facing small business when it comes to weekend staff is actually finding reliable staff. Staff that will not chuck a sickie or show up hungover after a big Saturday night, staff that can often be trusted with the keys to the premises, and staff that can be trusted to manage not only other staff often, but also deal with large volumes of customers.

In the real world you don’t attract better staff by offering less money. Look I know it is not rocket science, but sometimes people like Alex Hawke and his Coalition compatriots need a lesson in the bleeding obvious.

There is an old saying;

“If you pay peanuts you end up with monkeys.”

One of the other issues that the small retailer faces is skyrocketing rents, an issue that the Coalition seem to ignore.

In my area I know of small retailers that have seen their rents increase by over 20% with landlords charging extra because of the North West Rail Link. This is despite the rail not being expected to open for another decade yet.

There is also the issue of eroding margins. As the larger retailers use their buying power to squeeze out the little guy.

Putting it in the simplest way I can major retailers use their buying power to ensure better terms of trade with suppliers, which is only natural. They then go into war with each other on price and leave the small business behind. I have seen many examples of products that can be purchased at a major retailer cheaper than an independent store can purchase the product from the supplier directly.

In one category I supplied products into an independent retailer was given approximately a 25% discount off rrp on products and paid freight for deliveries under $1,000 and had no option of returning unsold items.

Major retailers on those same items were given free freight, around 40-50% off rrp for a buy price, then paid a rebate of anywhere between 17 and 25% and often given marketing funds on top.

If these chains sold at cost they sold at least 15% cheaper than an independent’s buy price, and still made around a 20% profit via their rebate.

How the hell does the small business compete with that?

These are just three of the many issues.

Debates on penalty rates are nothing more than a smoke-screen.

Coming to a workplace near you

I’m coming for your wages…

It is not only about the retail chain however.

Those who come to your rescue in an ambulance at 3am on a Sunday morning deserve to be paid a bit extra for being on duty while most of us sleep.

Without penalty rates you may find it takes hours longer for someone to come out and turn the power on after a blackout.

Without penalty rates you may be lying in a hospital bed in agony at 11pm on a Friday night buzzing for nurse that doesn’t come because none of them will work until 9am Monday morning.

Without penalty rates restaurants may become self-service at night and on weekends.

Without penalty rates we may be pushing our cars around at night as nobody will be willing to risk a gun in their face late at night at the service station making fuel impossible to purchase.

Premiers like Barry O’Farrell won’t have to stress about alcohol fuelled violence on weekends due to his government’s failure to enforce liquor licensing and responsible service regulations, because nobody will be serving drinks, and even if they were, public transport would have nobody willing to see that they can travel to the city due to the lack of drivers.

But never mind, I’m sure if all of this happened the Coalition would continue to blame the workers.

The funny thing is, a year ago under a Labor government businesses were doing well enough to be happy to open on a Sunday.

What’s changed?

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  1. Monica says:

    yes but they also blame the carbon tax…..maybe these businesses need to get their houses in order……famous sayings from a bad uncaring government…even BHP chief says we need a price on emissions to make big business invest in other ways….which hello! woukd create jobs….STUPID LNP

  2. annette says:

    I work in disability care.I would seriously think about quitting my job,if they took my penalty rates away.Someone on a 457 visa will probably get my old job,working for next to nothing!Everything about this Abbott government fkn stinks!

  3. joy cooper says:

    Cannot believe the idiots who voted for o belong to the L-NP think this is a “new” problem, brought to us by the previous “inept” ALP government. Penalties have been part of the wages scene for at least six decades & businesses still come & go.

    If someone who buys a business, on a whim & the smell of an oily rag, has trouble paying their bills, because they are a lousy businessperson, they won’t blame themselves. It will be the “greedy” workers’ fault. If they think that then they & their family should do the evening & weekend shifts.

    Don’t they & their conservative political representatives understand if you pay lower-paid workers even less that means less money is spread around & more businesses go bust. The lower-paid tend to spend all their pay just on living expenses. So the cycle goes. Less money to spend means more workers out of work & (boohoo) lower dividends for the shareholders.

    Most of my jobs have been ones where I was paid penalties for which I was very thankful as the basic wage – M-F 8 to 5 – was so low we couldn’t survive on it. Yes, I was a nurse.

  4. Nick McCarthy says:

    There is I believe a very simple and eloquent solution to the penalty rates question. Firstly only LNP supporters should be required to work on the weekend. This would allow everyone else to be able to spend the weekend at home with their loved ones. I’m sure that their will be no argument from LNP supporters because the various business will be able to increase their profits whilst they are being exploited. Secondly, as we are constantly reminded, the age of entitlement is over, therefore the house of representatives and the senate should be required to sit every Sunday and public holiday. If politicians don’t turn up because its a weekend and they would rather spend that time with their family, dock their wages! 🙂

  5. Fed up says:

    One will not find most shift workers in the hospitality industry.

    No, they are nurses, welfare, residential care, police, firemen, doctors, transport and many other workers, The list is endless. Most are not highly paid.

    Yes, when I was faced with a mountain of debt, and for young children, I took the shift work option,. Yes, decades later, my sleeping patterns are none existent.

    What was worse, I was face with debt and the need to support mu kids, in some type of decent life versus their well being and safety.

    Yes, it was a no win situation. In retrospect.I believe I made the wrong Dennison. I lst control of my kids, by nev3er being there on weekends and afternoons.

    Shift work does destroy family solidarity.

    Drum world listening to, for a change. On financial advisers.

  6. Fed up says:

    Love it. Chris Berg saying we are not getting rid of best interest etc. Since when has he been in the government? ABC 24 Drum

  7. Fed up says:

    Ass far as kids go, the weekends still exist.school through the week. Weekend is for recreation and family events. Even preparing for the school week..\

    Maybe Sundays are no longer for church. Saturdays for shopping. It is true that qwwkends are still for kids.

  8. Helicalgroove says:

    I’m guessing that Alex Hawke’s electoral office is open on Sundays, right?

  9. skydog says:

    Thanks again wixxi for setting me straight. Here I was in a spirit of “balance” reading as wide as I can, and I was beginning to fall for the “society is changing and we need to look at more flexible options so business can thrive” speil. Your other reasons for why bisnesses struggle are very compelling. One needs to be very sceptical these days because it seems as though nothing that this mob is proposing has any moral substance, let alone just common sense.
    (sorry can’t spell for shit)

  10. Rod Bakes says:

    Why did we dump Labor ,Murdoch set out from day one To destroy Labor , The man is obsessed . He,s bitter on society .His wealth has turned him a vengeful tyrant ! His control over what we see & what we Hear is far reaching .I seen a statistic ,he controls 67% of mainstream Media ! He fooled everybody ,Abbott is his servant ! Abbott will turn us upside down ! Goodnight & hope for an event or happening that ,shows the everyday Aussie how they are ripping our country apart We will be left with crumbs !1

  11. Steve Ackerman says:

    I simply want to remind people of what Tony Abbott said in 2012:

    The one thing that the Australian workers will find is that I am their best friend. What I want to see is higher wages and more jobs. That’s what I was like when I was the workplace relations minister.

    Obviously this was never a core promise. Serfchoices here we come.

  12. my say says:

    this government wont be happy until all workers are earning $2 an hour,unemployment is the highest its been for years, and now abbott has changed the law to allow employers to bring in more over seas workers,there goes the million jobs he promised ,they certainally won’t be for aussies

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