Weekend penalty rate protesters take to Eden-Monaro MP’s Queanbeyan office

Union delegates are concerned about any change to Sunday penalty rates. Photo: Rob BanksQueanbeyan shift workers and union members protested plans to change penalty rates outside Eden-Monaro MP Peter Hendy’s office on Wednesday morning.

The group, led by United Voice ACT secretary Lyndal Ryan, said any cuts to weekend penalty rates would have a negative impact on their weekly budget and inevitably, the local community.

Protests have become a semi-frequent sight outside the Queanbeyan office in recent months with hospitality, cleaning, childcare, hospital and education staff growing concerned.

In December the Productivity Commission’s final report into Australia’s workplace relations system recommended the lowering of Sunday penalty rates for hospitality workers.

The report also called for penalty rates on public holidays to remain untouched along with the minimum wage.

ACT Liberal senator Zed Seselja broke ranks with his colleagues after the report and called on the government to adopt the recommendations.

Ms Ryan said Dr Hendy needed to understand the importance of penalty rates for hospitality workers as Australia’s first assistant finance minister.

“Weekend rates do not fully compensate them for this but they do make a huge difference, particularly for such low paid workers,” she said.

One hospitality worker and Queanbeyan resident, Bryan Kidman, said he could not survive financially without weekend rates.

The union pointed to 2015 research by the McKell Institute that found any reduction in penalty rates would likely to result in a negative impact on the emotional wellbeing and security of workers

“It is estimated that retail and hospitality workers in rural Australia would lose between $370 million and $1.55 billion each year, depending on the extent of the cut to penalty rates and the level of local ownership of the retail stores,” the report said.

Late last year, United Voice delegates protested outside the office after a poll found eight in 10 Canberrans supported penalty rates.

The poll of 1183 people, conducted by ReachTel on behalf of Unions ACT, showed about one in 10 was opposed to penalty rates while the remainder were yet to make up their minds.

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