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Labor moves to stop penalty rate cut-NewsCO

February 26, 2017

Labor will step up its push to protect penalty rates arguing the Fair Work Commission’s ruling to align Sunday rates with Saturday in some industries is untenable.

The opposition will formally tell parliament on Monday it wants to legislate to ensure last week’s decision is never implemented and penalty rates can’t be dropped in the future if it results in cuts to take-home pay.

The Fair Work Commission has decided Sunday penalty rates for retail, hospitality and fast food workers should be cut to bring them closer to Saturday pay levels.

More than 600,000 people are expected to be affected.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has written to the prime minister urging him to support Labor’s drafted legislation.

“Malcolm Turnbull is giving the big banks a tax cut and the person making his coffee a pay cut,” Mr Shorten told AAP.

“The prime minister can’t even summon up a bit of sympathy for these people. As far as he’s concerned, they are just numbers on a spreadsheet.”

The opposition’s employment spokesman Brendan O’Connor said Labor supports the independence of the commission “generally speaking”.

“But this decision was so untenable we had to respond by saying we cannot support it,” he told ABC radio on Monday.

“This decision, and if we allow it to take effect, will mean that the lowest paid workers in our society will be losing money.”

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash warns Labor is setting a dangerous precedent by calling for the commission’s decision to be overturned.

“You cannot have it both ways,” she said.

“What’s next for Bill Shorten? Is it legislating the minimum wage, is it legislating interest rates, is it overturning a decision by the judicial process that Bill Shorten says, ‘You know, I’m actually not happy with that’.”

She compared the latest push by Labor to its “Mediscare” campaign during the last federal election.

Unions are voicing their anger, calling on all politicians to join them in their fight to protect worker’s pay.

“Malcolm Turnbull has shown he is prepared to overturn the Senate and statutory bodies in order to take rights away from workers,” ACTU president Ged Kearney said, citing the double dissolution election over the building industry watchdog, and laws on truck driver and firefighter conditions.

“Now he has a chance to act for workers.”

Labor’s move is likely to have backing from the Greens – who cited their own draft bill aimed at stopping penalty rate cuts – and independent senator Jacqui Lambie, who says there is no way she could support any Sunday penalty rate cuts.

Greens workplace relation’s spokesman Adam Bandt said as a former industrial lawyer he’d be the first person to defend the importance of an independent umpire.

But he warned the decision won’t result in cheaper weekend coffees or golden rivers of jobs.

“It’s just going to result in young people having less money to pay the rent,” he told ABC radio.

Cabinet minister Mathias Cormann refused to say whether he supported the commission’s decision.

“It’s not not for me to second-guess the decisions they’ve made,” he told ABC radio.

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