Politics

Penalty Rate Cuts Are Hurting Women And Young People The Most, Scathing Report Says

It also calls for dodgy bosses to be jailed, which, yes.

Penalty Rates

A scathing Victorian parliament report has called on the federal government to reverse its decision to cut penalty rates and suggested that bosses who dishonestly underpay their workers should be given jail time.

The report, tabled yesterday by a Labor-dominated committee, revealed that over the course of the inquiry “it became clear that the reduction in penalty rates is already having a significant detrimental impact on thousands of workers in the affected industries, particularly women, young people and employees in rural and regional parts of the state.”

The committee heard submissions from advocacy groups, unions, think tanks and business lobbies.

What Else Did It Say?

The biggest take to come out of the report is the suggestion that dodgy bosses get locked up for underpaying staff.

Committee chair and Labor MP Gabrielle Williams recommended that the law be written to “include potential criminal sanctions for employers who dishonestly underpay their staff”.

Premier Daniel Andrews has been promoting the idea since May. And, as The New Daily reported, the Liberal Party opposition may be open to the policy move too.

The committee also found that women were disproportionately affected by the penalty rate cuts that came into effect at the beginning of July.

“The Fair Work Commission’s decision to reduce penalty rates disproportionately impacts women, who have a greater representation in the affected industries and a greater reliance on penalty rates,”  read the report. All up, 46,000 women in Victoria were immediately affected by the pay cuts.

The report also struggled to find evidence that the penalty rates cut had lead to more jobs:

“There is no evidence that new jobs have been created, or additional hours offered, following the first round of penalty rate reductions.”

Because of the findings, the report recommended the federal government reverse the recent penalty rate change.

How’s The Liberal Party Taking This?

Opposition MPs are furious that the report was ever created in the first place, saying that the Labor-dominated process was a misuse of taxpayer money.

“This was a blatant misuse of public funds by the Andrews government,” wrote the two Liberal party politicians on the select committee. “Most stakeholders have recognised the partisan motivation for this inquiry and its lack of genuine purpose.”

Committee chair Williams told Junkee that she hoped the federal government would accept the report.

“I would hope that the federal government acts in accordance with the recommendations outlined in the majority report, and works to ensure that vulnerable workers are not negatively impacted by penalty rates cuts,” she said.

Today, a federal Labor politician got involved in the tussle.

“Turnbull must reverse his support for cuts to penalty rates,” said the shadow minister for employment and workplace relations Brendan O’Connor, “Turnbull and his Liberals are too arrogant and out of touch to acknowledge these challenges, let alone come up with any policy initiatives to deal with them.”

Opposition leader Bill Shorten has promised to restore penalty rates if elected at the next election.

Wage theft has been widely reported on in recent months. A recent Fair Work Ombudsman campaign returned almost $500,000 to workers who had been short changed. Of 243 businesses audited, 72 percent of them breached workplace laws.

But Williams told Junkee that was always a way to get back your unpaid wages.

“If individuals believe they have been underpaid they should speak first to their employer and to their union (if they are a member). If it remains unresolved, they can then make a complaint to the Fair Work Ombudsman.”