Stand up to save our penalty rates

On Thursday 23 February, 2017 the Fair Work Commission handed down its long awaited decision on the future of penalty rates – and the news was not good.

From July 2017, hospitality, restaurant, fast food, retail and pharmacy workers will have their Sunday and public holiday penalty rates slashed.

This decision – which marks the biggest pay cut since the Great Depression – sets a dangerous precedent.

Up to one million workers from these industries will have their penalty rate loadings reduced by between 25 to 100% per cent. It’s estimated this could mean a pay cut of up to $6000 per year for these workers.

What does it mean for nurses and midwives?

Many of those directly affected by these changes are our children, our neighbours or our loved ones.

However, we’re also concerned the Commission’s decision marks the beginning of a slippery slope. Once you target one group of workers, it’s easier to go after another.

We fear employers will now be more inclined to make an application to the Commission to reduce penalty rates, including for all nurses’ and midwives’ who are covered by the Nurses’ Award 2010 (except Queensland Government employees). If the Commission was to reduce penalty rates in the Nurses’ Award 2010, it would be more difficult for us to defend your current penalty rates in your enterprise agreement.

With a state election due soon a hostile state government that doesn’t value nursing and midwifery could seek to cut your penalty rates either through Queensland Health EB10 negotiations or by varying the relevant Award.

Significantly, the penalty rates reduction decision was made by the same Commission that creates and changes the Award which applies to all nurses and midwives except those in the Queensland government. The Commission also decides whether or not to approve enterprise agreements which apply to those same nurses and midwives.

This is why we need to take action to defend our penalty rates. Prior to the next state and federal elections, the QNMU will seek a commitment from all political parties and independent candidates to maintain your penalty rates.

Be assured, defending our penalty rates is a priority issue for the QNMU. We will campaign through political avenues and EB negotiations to protect your penalty rates.

How can you help?

There are a number of simple things you can do right now to join the campaign to protect penalty rates:

In 2007 we campaigned against the anti-worker Work Choices by running the ‘Your Rights at Work’ campaign and we won.

And we’ll do it again because as nurses and midwives we stand up for what is right and fair.