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Fair Work Commission slashes penalty rates

24 February 2017

In a live broadcast, Fair Work Commission President Iain Ross thanked stakeholders for their input in the decision making process, highlighting that the final written submission on the decision was submitted on February 4.

Trent Hunter a retail worker from Penrith and Evelyn Kathner who works at Spotlight in Campbelltown said the cuts would be devastating to them. While young people might be able to catch up with some areas of social life outside of the weekend, their parents and older family members are more likely to work in the week, making it hard to find time to spend together as a family.

"Sunday work has a higher level of disutility, but much less than in times past".

Shorten said it was a "weak and unfair decision" - the thin end of the wedge.

"It's a pay cut, but the traditional Monday to Friday week no longer exists, especially in these [affected] industries".

Hallelujah! Reducing punishingly high penalty rates for Sunday work will lead to more Sunday work!

The changes bring Sunday penalty rates in line with Saturday rates, while public holiday rates for full-time and part-time employees will also be reduced from 250% to 225%.

As stated by the Productivity Commission, penalty rates "frustrate the ambitions of the unemployed" while handicapping businesses eager to capitalise on changing consumer preferences. "They might have to get a second or third job... the decision can sound so simple, but it has these consequences that are like a domino effect". It'll start here and then it will go to our emergency services workers. then to the nursing community.

"We are all waiting with keen interest for the Fair Work Commission's ruling", ACCI chief executive James Pearson said.

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The argument from employer groups has always been that high Sunday penalty rates - up to double time for some employee groups - no longer reflect community standards and have become a disincentive for shops to open their doors. In this context, added weekend pay loadings served the dual goal of deterring businesses from deviating from the standard work week's strict division of work and play while compensating a tiny minority forced to work extra after already putting in a long week.

The issue is likely to dominate next week's parliamentary question time and Senate estimates hearings on workplace relations.

Porters Cafe owner Chris Bergen will not open his business on a Sunday despite the penalty cuts.

Unionists from the Victorian Trades Hall Council are planning to rally outside the commission in Melbourne's CBD to "defend penalty rates" ahead of the decision. Yet for young people, working these unsociable hours has a real impact on their social lives, ability to engage in family life, and overall health.

Shadow employment minister Brendan O'Connor has told Sky News Labor will be calling on the parliament to remidy this decision.

Camden MP Chris Patterson (Liberal) said he could see both the pros and cons of the decision.

Bill Shorten's office confirmed to the ABC that Mr Hunter is a member of the Labor Party.

Ms Kathner who earns $600 per week and stands to lose $80 from her earnings each week in the cuts, asked Mr Turnbull if he himself could live off that amount.