Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull seems to be putting his hand up to become the most anti-worker prime minister the Australian Council of Trade Unions has seen in our 90-year history.
Unless he acts now, he will be remembered as the prime minister who cut the take-home pay of almost one million of Australia’s lowest-paid workers.
The decision to cut Sunday and public holiday pay is the result of a concerted push by big business. Sadly the Turnbull government, rather than defending these hard-working people from savage pay cuts of up to $6000 a year, has cheered these business interests on in their attacks.
Drastically reducing Sunday and public holiday rates for workers across retail, hospitality, fast food and pharmacies is catastrophic and will contribute to the creation of a class of working poor Australians.
Employment Minister Michaelia Cash says the extra money companies get from cutting wages might go back into new jobs. Sadly research paper after research paper shows that cuts to penalty rates do not result in more employment.
Even the Fair Work Commission says the employment outcomes “are likely to be reduced due to substitution and other effects”. That means people working more hours to earn the same money they have now.
Not once has Mr Turnbull stepped in to defend the working people who are impacted by this decision. In fact, 60 members of his government have publicly argued these working people should have their pay cut and in doing so they have sent a clear message: you don’t matter as much as increasing profits.
How else do you explain to Penrith retail worker Evelyn Kathner why her $600 weekly pay packet is set to be slashed by $80 when the decision comes into effect from July?
Ms Kathner will be only one of the hundreds of thousands of workers who will be sitting at the kitchen table trying to work out how to make ends meet when her pay is cut.
People are going to have to work harder and for longer to ensure they have enough money to pay their rent or mortgage, keep up with bills or go to the doctor.
The hypocrisy is breathtaking.
Australia is in the middle of a bumper corporate profit season. Every day we’re seeing eye-watering profits from Australia’s biggest businesses including many who will benefit from these wage cuts.
Mr Turnbull, and all our political representatives, must act immediately to change the rules to protect working people from any cuts to their take-home pay as a result of this decision and ensure this cannot happen again to any other worker.
Australian unions will not allow a Prime Minister to stand idle while working people have their livelihoods torn down so that an already profitable sector can take money from their pay packets and put it into a profit line.
If the system allows workers to go backwards, to have their wages cut and their conditions undermined then we will campaign to change the system.
Gerardine (Ged) Kearney was re-elected as ACTU President at the ACTU Congress in May 2015, a position she has held since 2010.