Aussies working in the hospitality industry, particularly on Sundays, have been delivered a blow from the Fair Work Commission (FWC), who last week announced Sunday penalty rates in retail, fast food, hospitality and pharmacy industries will be reduced from existing levels.
The pay cuts will largely come into effect from July this year, while others will be introduced slowly over time.
In the hospitality industry, which feeds into the tourism industry, employees will face a reduction in Sunday pay from 175 per cent to 150 per cent, while casual hospitality workers’ pay will remain unchanged.
Holiday penalty rates for full-time and part-time employees in hospitality and retail will also be slashed from 250 per cent, or “double-time and a half”, to 225 per cent.
The changes don’t, however, extend to restaurants and cafes.
And while trade unions and the workers themselves are fired up over the slash to their wages, Australian Hotel Association (AHA) and Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA) – who led the submissions to the FWC on behalf of the hotel sector – say it’s a step in the right direction for modern day hospitality industries.
Although one step wasn’t quite enough for TAA chair Martin Ferguson AM, a former Australian Council of Trade Unions president and Federal Tourism Minister.
According to Ferguson, and a number of other hospitality industry figures, the rates haven’t been cut enough, which would encourage more opening hours for hotels and venues, and more shifts for workers, albeit at a lower price.
Ferguson said, “For us the objective was to modernise the award, not to abolish penalty rates, but to make it relevant to the 21st century as a means of employing more Australians.
“We are currently experiencing the largest-ever expansion of accommodation hotels across the country, so it is imperative that workplace reforms support this growth phase.
“From the industry point of view we haven’t got everything we want. That is the nature of the Fair Work Commission.”
AHA CEO Stephen Ferguson also chimed into the debate, adding that while he supports workers being remunerated extra for working weekends and public holidays, the rates at which they’re paid is choking the hospitality industry’s ability to remain open.
“Today people expect to be able to shop, buy a meal or a drink at all hours of the day, while large numbers of workers actually prefer to work outside a ‘9 to 5’ weekday regime because it suits their lifestyle, studies or family circumstances,” he said.
“Over recent years too many businesses have closed or reduced employment on Sundays or Public Holidays because of the cost of penalty rates. That is bad for workers, bad for business and bad for the general public.”
Over in Western Australia, AHA’s WA CEO Bradley Woods said, “Whilst we did not get what we asked for, it is a step in the right direction. Along with opening for additional hours to service our hospitality economy, even more jobs could be created.
“Our case challenged the status quo which saw cost-prohibitive penalty rates on weekends and public holidays.
“The FWC decision means that full and part-time workers under the Hospitality Award will have Sunday rates reduced from 175 per cent to 150 per cent and public holiday rates reduced from 250 per cent to 225 per cent. However casual worker rates were only changed slightly on public holidays – from 275 per cent to 250 per cent when we were seeking 175 per cent.
“The changes will encourage our members to offer more shifts for workers and longer hours for customers.”