REVIEW: Julia Gillard.
REVIEW: Julia Gillard.

New call to slash workers’ wages

DEBATE has ignited on whether small businesses should pay staff penalty rates on public holidays.

A Noosa business is the latest to submit their support for a change to the Federal Fair Work Act 2009, which is being debated in Canberra.

If the bill is successful, it would cut penalty rates for employees in a business which employs fewer than 20 full-time employees.

This includes restaurants and catering and retail industries.

Burger Bar Noosa's Richard Tan said in his submission the axing of penalty rates would make the business more viable on weekends, and he would consider employing more casual staff.

The Senate committee is expected to finalise its report on the bill in March.

Noosa Chamber of Commerce president Carl Beck agreed the penalty rates in Australia should be reviewed.

"When businesses can't open because penalty rates are so high, everyone misses out, without businesses there are no employees," Mr Beck said. "It seems Julia Gillard is penalising small business for being a small business."

Mr Beck said while he agreed there should be some incentive paid to workers on public holidays, he said double-time-and-a-half rates were not sustainable for small business.

"The government needs to recognise that we live in a 24-7 society. For me anything between 6am and midnight is ordinary hours," he said.

"If you work after midnight, sure, there should be an inflated rate, but those night hours come with being in the hospitality industry."

But United Voice, a hospitality employees union, believes the amendment to the Fair Work Act would mean hospitality workers would struggle to make ends meet.

"We firmly believe penalty rates must not be removed," United Voice secretary Gary Bullock said.

"Our members work weekends, public holidays and late nights, and they should be compensated for sacrificing time with their families and working unsociable hours.

"Hundreds of thousands of people on the Sunshine Coast work in hospitality.

"The reality of the situation is if employers get their way and penalty rates are removed, local workers will struggle to feed their families."

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