News National Unions gear up to make penalty rates a major election issue

Unions gear up to make penalty rates a major election issue

Bill Shorten
Unions will be pulling out the stops to back Bill Shorten's pledge to protect and restore penalty rates. Photo: AAP
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Retail and hospitality workers will conduct a doorknocking campaign on the issue of penalty rates ahead of the federal election.

Unionists are preparing for a national wages campaign focusing on the Coalition’s support for penalty rate cuts, as the announcement of the next election date draws closer.

United Voice members will target marginal seats across the nation, sharing how the cuts hurt their hip pocket to garner support for penalty rates to be reinstated.

“They’ve seen their pay go backwards by thousands of dollars and it’s not as simple as getting another job,” the union’s national secretary, Jo-ann Schofield, said ahead of the campaign launch in Brisbane on Sunday.

“It’s as if those workers don’t matter.”

The independent Fair Work Commission reviewed penalty rates and then decided to cut them, with the first round taking place in July 2017.

Labor leader Bill Shorten was then a minister when he played a role in getting the review started, and later said he would accept its decision.

He now wants to restore penalty rates if he is elected, while Mr Morrison has said Labor won’t be able to pay for it.

United Voice says the rates slash has impacted 700,000 individuals working in retail, hospitality, fast food and pharmacy.

When the final trim takes effect in July a hospitality worker on an average eight-shift will have lost $40 a shift, or around $2000 a year, it says.

“The economics evidence shows people who are on middle or low incomes spend pretty much every cent,” Ms Schofield said.

She says restoring wages will bump the economy, particularly in regional areas, because people will have more to spend.