UNITED: Labour Day celebrations in Bundaberg last year.
UNITED: Labour Day celebrations in Bundaberg last year. Richard Pascoe

'The largest wage cut since the Great Depression'

"CUTTING penalty rates will have a huge impact on individuals but will be only a small drop in the ocean for business owners, so why do it?”

This is the question being posed by CQUniversity Professor of Human Resources and Employment Julian Teicher and comes just before the Bundaberg Labour Day March this Saturday.

This year's march will focus on protecting penalty rates, giving employees a chance to speak up about the changes.

Bundaberg Labour Day co-ordinator and Queensland Council of Unions Bundaberg spokesman Richard Pascoe said unions would use Labour Day in Bundaberg to call on the Federal Government to stop cuts to penalty rates, which they say will reduce wages for thousands of local workers.

He said cutting penalty rates would be the single largest wage cut since the Great Depression, hitting Bundaberg workers who are already low-paid.

"It's a wage cut that they can't afford and they don't deserve,” he said.

Based on a conservative estimate, if the cuts go ahead 180,000 Queenslanders face losing about $50 per week - affecting potentially thousands of Bundaberg workers.

"The Turnbull government and Keith Pitt refused to protect penalty rates,” he said.

"Far from improving the economy, a reduction in penalty rates will actually rip workers' spending out of the Bundaberg economy.”

Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt said it was important to remember the penalty rates decision only affected certain industries - workers such as nurses and emergency services personnel would not be affected.

"I have had many conversations with local business owners in the Hinkler electorate who have told me penalty rates were a major influence on whether they opened on a Sunday or not,” he said.

"If the changes to the penalty rates means these businesses are now able to open an extra day, offer more hours to its employees, then that is going to be positive for our local economy.”

Mr Pascoe said Australians had always been about a fair go and that was why people who work when others enjoy family time are compensated for it - a boost that keeps food on the table and pays the bills, he said.

"Reducing penalty rates is a sudden pay cut to low-paid workers who are already struggling. There's absolutely no evidence that it would create one single new job, and around 60% of Australians oppose pay rates being cut for people who work on weekends and public holidays,” Mr Pascoe said.

This year marks 126 years of Labor Day, recognising the achievements of the union movement, including health and safety laws, compulsory superannuation, parental leave and fair wages.


What: Labour Day March

When: 9.30-10.30am, Saturday

Where: Starting at Young Aussie Hotel, marching across Burnett River Traffic Bridge to Anzac Park.

Burnett River Traffic Bridge will be closed during this time.

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