This Business Group Used International Women’s Day To Try And Justify Cuts To Penalty Rates

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International Women’s Day is a good opportunity to reflect on the deep inequality that exists in our society. From the gender pay gap, to the struggles of low-paid childcare workers (who are overwhelmingly women) to the barriers many women around the world face in accessing healthcare and education.

It seems like an extremely odd occasion to spruik the recent cuts to Sunday penalty rates for retail and hospitality workers, but that’s exactly what one of the country’s largest business lobby groups did.

This afternoon the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which represents businesses across the country, posted on Twitter arguing that “women stand to benefit from changes to penalty rates [because] underemployment disproportionately affects women”.

And just to really rub it in, the tweet included a personal message from the organisation’s CEO, James Pearson. Oh, and if that’s not enough they even used the official International Women’s Day hashtag #BeBoldForChange.

Yep, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry decided that International Women’s Day was the right moment to get their male CEO to deliver a message about why cutting wages for low-paid retail and hospitality would actually be good for women. Since a majority of workers in the affected industries are women, that seems highly unlikely.

Their argument rests on the idea that since businesses are paying people less in wages, due to the penalty rate cut, they will use that money to hire people to work extra hours. But the evidence is contested, and some analysis has shown that the main beneficiaries of the wage cuts will be company shareholders, not workers looking to pick up additional hours.

The internet was not very impressed with the organisation’s argument:

In case you were wondering, here’s what the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s board looks like:


It’s good to know that if the board signed off on this bizarre strategy of using International Women’s Day, an event rooted in militant socialism, the discussion was amongst 10 blokes and two women.

The organisation clearly took the negative feedback on board and responded by posting this graph:

Which is a cool graph and all, but doesn’t in anyway support their argument that “women stand to benefit” from cuts to penalty rates.

Here’s a more relevant one:


Breakdown of retail industry by gender. Source: ABS

Fifty eight percent of retail workers are women, and they all stand to lose money as a result of the cuts to penalty rates.

Look, it’s not that surprising the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry supports cutting penalty rates. They represent businesses, after all. But actually using International Women’s Day to try and argue that cutting the pay of workers in an industry dominated by women is going to benefit them?

Delete your account.