Angry protesters rally outside Capricornia MP's office
AS low-paid workers see their penalty rates cut, politicians will tomorrow receive thousands of extra dollars in pay as well as a drop in tax.
It's a move Central Queensland union boss Peter Lyon sees as wholly unfair to those whose decreasing earnings will now be helping to further fill politician's coffers.
The regional organiser for the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union yesterday protested the changes, which take effect tomorrow, outside Capricornia MP Michelle Landry's Rockhampton office.
"A lot of people that have to work Saturdays and Sundays will be affected greatly and they're some of the poorest paid people in Australia," he said.
"It's a disgrace at the moment, what's happening to them.
"Penalty rate cuts, once they've got through to the lower paid people, will ultimately flow through to everyone."
Most casual, full and part-time staff working in the retail, fast-food, hospitality or pharmacy industries will lose out with penalty rates significantly reduced on advice of the Fair Work Commission.
A Labor motion to stop the cuts going ahead was defeated in a parliamentary vote last week.
On the same day these cuts come into effect, politicians will benefit from a 2% pay increase determined by the Remuneration Tribunal and their tax rate will drop from 49% to 47%.
The average backbencher MP, including Ms Landry, will see their income rise from $199,040 to $203,020 a year.
However, minimum wages will also increase from today by $0.59 an hour to $18.29.
When it comes to penalty rate cuts, Mr Lyon said the argument that it would allow small business to hire more people was flawed.
"I hope it does, but to be honest I haven't seen any proof. I don't think it will," he said.
"I think it will enable people to put more money in their pockets. It's also going to hurt them in the long run because people who don't have enough money to spend won't be spending it in their shops because they've lost it in penalty rates. It's a catch 22."
Penalty rates cut:
- Sunday hospitality rates cut from 175% to 150%. Public holiday rates fall from 250% to 225%.
- In retail, Sunday rates fall from 200% to 150%. Public holidays drop from 250% to 225%
For most workers, Mr Lyon said the change could cost workers hundreds of dollars each week.
In many cases, he said these workers were already struggling to make ends meet.
"With the changes coming in to penalty rates, I think Rockhampton will see a slump in disposable income," Mr Lyon said.
"If people don't have as much money in their back pocket, they don't have as much to spend.
"They've got to cut back on something.
"They've still got to pay their rent, they've still got to pay their electricity so they'll cut back on food or coffees or the meals they go out for every now and then."
Some businesses in Central Queensland and nationally have publicly spoken out in support of full penalty rates, with plans to continue paying full rates despite the cut.
Mr Lyon said this was a welcome show of support for affected workers.
"If people see a sign on a door or a window that says 'we support paying penalty rates', we urge people to patronise those shops and show their solidarity," he said.
"Ultimately if the shops that don't pay penalty rates see their custom decline, they'll have a change of heart we hope and pay penalty rates."
Ms Landry said the penalty rate cuts were aimed at keeping more small businesses open on weekends, especially in regional areas.
"We live in a region that is trying to bring more tourists," she said.
"Walking down the main street of Yeppoon on a Sunday or public holiday and half the businesses are closed because they can't afford the wages.
"Business owners have approached me and said that they and their staff welcome these changes because it will allow them to open, and therefore give their staff additional hours.
"I will continue to back small business in this region by supporting a fair playing field with penalty rates.
"The unions have done dirty deals that only benefit large international companies.
"The adjustments to Sunday penalty rates will even the playing field for Capricornia's small businesses, which have to pay more for staff on Sundays than big businesses."