Mr X more harmful than pokies

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Nick Xenophon’s Fair Work Amendment Bill seeks to exempt some small businesses from paying penalty rates to workers in certain circumstances, writes United Voice's David Di Troia.

In last weekend’s Sunday Mail, South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon wrote: “People deserve a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work.”

But he doesn’t seem to understand what a fair wage is for ordinary working people.

His Bill, which is currently before Federal Parliament, means South Australians who work weekends in our restaurants, cafes, pubs and clubs will lose pay. 

If this Bill succeeds, someone who works Saturday and Sunday nights in a restaurant over the course of a year will lose around $8000 a year from their pay packets. It’s as simple as that.

Senator Xenophon is standing side by side with business and selling out some of our lowest-paid workers. 

Senator Xenophon has always been concerned about how people spend their money – now it seems he doesn’t want them to earn it in the first place.

Xenophon’s Fair Work Amendment Bill seeks to exempt small businesses with fewer than 20 full-time equivalents (FTEs) from paying penalty rates to workers in certain circumstances, for instance when they work less than 38 hours a week or fewer than ten hours in one day.

Let’s have a look at exactly who these workers are. For instance, in the hospitality industry, most workers are casual, doing unfriendly hours, with no job security and often on only a few shifts a week. 

These thousands of South Australians rely on penalty rates to feed their families. They rely on weekend penalty rates to earn a decent weekly wage. 

The evidence shows that Australians overwhelmingly support protecting weekends with penalty rates. A recent Galaxy poll showed that 87% of adult Australians believe workers should be compensated with higher pay if they have to work on Saturday or Sunday.

The research also found there is virtually universal agreement - 97% - that weekends are an important time for families.

What’s made working people angry is that Xenophon’s Bill is just the thin end of the wedge. He’s not alone in attacking weekend penalty rates. 

The Xenophon Bill would affect 90% of South Australian workplaces. If it passes through the Parliament, we have no doubt that employers will push for it to cover medium and large businesses as well. 

South Australian working people have seen this kind of attack on pay and conditions before. It was called WorkChoices, and it was passed by the Howard Liberal Government in 2005. It was a wholesale attack on the rights and conditions of working people and gave businesses employing one hundred people or less similar freedoms to the Xenophon Bill.  

There is no excuse for ripping off working people. Is this Senator Xenophon’s idea of a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work?

It’s certainly not what our members think. For them, a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work includes being compensated for working on weekends.

At least a problem gambler has a slim chance of recovering their losses. Senator Xenophon's Bill gives workers no choice and no chance.

For more information and to help defeat the Xenophon Bill, visit www.saveourweekend.org.au


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