Mal Brough
Mal Brough

Mal Brough calls for rethink on penalty rates to help young

SUNSHINE Coast MP Mal Brough has called for a rethink on weekend and public holiday penalty rates, saying many young people are being denied hours because it was too expensive.

In a recent speech to Parliament, Mr Brough said he was speaking on behalf of the 8400 15 to 19 years old on the Sunshine Coast who were unemployed.

"This week I received a letter from an employer who wants to employ more people but simply cannot. He owns one cafe. He had two. He had to close one of them and put off nine staff.

"I want to quote a few of the sentences that he wrote to me: 'The end result is that it costs around $50 per hour to employ a staff member on a public holiday, which many hospitality businesses just cannot afford.

"The rate now paid on Sundays is not a great deal less, which sees many hospitality businesses either begin to reduce opening hours. This happens on both Saturdays and Sundays - or close altogether.'

"He concludes: 'When a business closes on a public holiday or a Sunday, due to the costs of penalty rates, no-one gains. The business owner gets no income but still needs to meet ongoing expenses, such as rent and power.

"The employees get no income and the government doesn't gain from taxes such as GST and PAYG that would have been raised for that day. Economically, no-one gains from this situation.'

"To put a bit of meat on the bones, what does this actually mean in dollar terms? For a pharmacy worker, the current 19-year old, level 1 rate is $17.98 an hour, or $22.48 an hour for a casual.

"But come a public holiday, when the Sunshine Coast needs to be open to provide the ambience and the options that the public who go there for the beauty of its beaches and its hinterland want to experience, the rate is $49.45 an hour for that same 19-year-old, level 1 employee.

"It is the same in the hospitality industry. The wages go from $17.49, up to $48.10 an hour. No-one begrudges people getting those wages but if the business is not open then no-one gains, as the employer says.''

His comments come as Fairfax Media revealed the federal government's sweeping review of Australia's workplace laws will put penalty rates, pay and conditions, union militancy and flexibility under the microscope.

A leaked draft of the terms of reference for the Productivity Commission inquiry into the Fair Work Act, reveals the inquiry will examine the act's impact on unemployment and under-employment, productivity, business investment and the ability of the labour market to respond to changing economic conditions.

The number of working days lost to strike action, pressures on small business, employers' flexibility to bargain with their employees on issues like working hours and the impact of red tape on business will be considered.

Mr Brough said research by others had found penalty rates were leading to reduced hours across Australia.

"Red Rooster in its submission to Fair Work Australia included a submission that had been put together by Deloittes,'' Mr Brough told Parliament.

"It found the following from its members: decrease in hours of operation during periods when penalty rates apply-49 per cent were franchisees; increase in operators' own working hours, 75 per cent were franchisees; decrease in the number of employees, 65 per cent were franchisees; and decrease in the hours offered to employees, 72 per cent.

"Similarly, in the pharmacy industry where they did a similar survey: 54 per cent of pharmacists decreased their overall hours offered to employees; 62 per cent reported a decrease in the use of casual employees; 39 per cent reported the proprietor was working more hours; and 34 per cent reduced or ceased trading on public holidays.

"No-one wins when it is out of kilter. I am not against award wages being increased for acknowledgement of working after hours-penalty rates-but when they get out of kilter and people are locked out of the labour market we are denying people the start in life that they need.

"One fact we know is that any job is better than no job and that any job leads to a better job. And for the 6,500 young people on the Sunshine Coast who are locked out, that task has been made more challenging.

"I put out my own survey in April last year and found that a large percentage of businesses, from butchers to bakers, from gift shop owners to restaurants, closed over Easter and reduced their hours. I was supported by the federal Labor candidate Bill Gissane, who said this:

'What I'm looking for is successful negotiation so businesses can prosper and the people who are employed in our service-based industries, who are among our lowest paid, are not disadvantaged …

"We need to do more for the youth of the Sunshine Coast and Australia by addressing this issue'."

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