Unions lose penalty rate cuts appeal

11 October 2017

Unions lose penalty rate cuts appeal

Photo credit: Martin Kingsley (Wikimedia) — CC BY 2.0 licence

Unions have lost an appeal to overturn the Fair Work Commission’s penalty rates cuts for hospitality, retail and fast-food workers.

The Federal Court found the Commission’s decision to cut Sunday and public holiday penalty rates for full-time and part-time workers is legal.

United Voice and the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association argued that the Fairwork Commission’s decision was “legally unreasonable” and did not consider the effect it would have on low-income workers.

Federal Court Judge Mordy Bromberg said the Court’s role was to determine whether there had been a legal error in the Commission’s decision.

“The Fair Work Commission alone was vested with the responsibility for assessing all relevant matters and reaching all the conclusions necessary to decide whether or not to make the determinations that it did,” his Honour said.

“The Court may not enter into the merits of the determinations made by the Fair Work Commission.

“In the view of the Court, the Fair Work Commission’s decision read as a whole reveals no jurisdictional error.”

United Voice have condemned the Court’s dismissal, with the Union’s national secretary describing the ruling as a “new low point for workers in Australia”.

“It shows that the laws in this country do not protect workers and are out of step with community values. Those laws have to change,” she said.

“We pursued this appeal against the penalty rate cuts, to stand up for hospitality workers and for all workers in this country. We fear that employer groups will now continue to attempt to attack the weekend pay of workers in other industries.”

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) welcomed the Federal Court’s decision, saying that had the appeal been successful it would have stifled growth in the retail sector.

Executive director Russell Zimmerman said: “The ARA hopes the ALP and other political parties that are seeking to overturn this decision are sensible enough to accept the umpire’s decision and allow retailers to get on with the job of employing more people.”

The Fairwork Commission’s decision cut Sunday pay rates for full-time and part-time hospitality workers from 175% of their usual wage to 150%.

Both full-time and part-time retail workers will see a reduction in their Sunday wages from 200% of their standard rate to 150%.

The decision cuts pay for fast food industry employees classed as “level one” from 150% to 125%.

In the retail and fast food industry, casual employees will also recieve a pay cut, but rates for hospitality will remain unchanged.

The Sunday penalty rate cuts will be introduced over the next few years.