House debates

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Private Members' Business

Workplace Relations

5:22 pm

Photo of Emma HusarEmma Husar (Lindsay, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

Might I say, Madam Deputy Speaker, that it is lovely to come in here and see a woman in the chair. I move:

That this House:

(1) notes that:

(a) reducing penalty rates will have a disproportionate effect on women;

(b) women make up 54 per cent of workers on the Fast Food Industry Award, 55 per cent on the General Retail Industry Award and 77 per cent on the Pharmacy Industry Award;

(c) in hospitality women are disproportionately part time and award reliant;

(d) the Government has refused to rule out cuts to the Hair and Beauty Industry Award, an award for an industry comprised of 87 per cent women; and

(e) thousands more women will be affected by these penalty rates cuts than men;

(2) acknowledges that:

(a) women are more likely to rely on penalty rates to meet household expenses;

(b) the cuts in take home pay of up to $77 a week will make it harder for women to pay rent and feed their families; and

(c) the cuts to penalty rates in these industries will widen the gender pay gap;

(3) condemns the Government's:

(a) failure to protect the take home pay of low paid women workers; and

(b) support for further cuts to the Hair and Beauty Industry Award; and

(4) calls on the Government to:

(a) support Labor's Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Take Home Pay) Bill 2017 to protect the take home pay of low paid workers;

(b) exercise some leadership and stand up for low paid workers; and

(c) start working to close the gender pay gap.

In February, the Fair Work Commission decided to cut Sunday penalty rates by 25 to 50 per cent for full-time and part-time employees in hospitality, fast food, retail and pharmacy. The insulting and offensive pay cut will kick in in less than two weeks, on 2 July. It will be a big, big blow to the modest pay packets of over 12,000 people in my electorate. According to the 2011 census—and, sadly, I do not have up-to-date figures—retail is the second largest industry in Lindsay, employing 8,093 workers. Food and hospitality is the eighth biggest, employing 3,987 workers. Cuts to penalty rates are also bad news for our local economy, as these workers will now have less money to spend in local shops, restaurants and businesses. Our local economy could have up to $930,160 ripped out each week, which is more than $48 million less in spending each year. According to the ACTU, half a million workers in retail, hospitality and fast food will lose up to $6,000 a year. It is a pay cut that will be borne almost entirely by the people in our country who can least afford it: the low-paid casual and part-time workforce.

Women make up roughly 46 per cent of the total Australian workforce, which means in most professions women are in the minority. However, in both retail and food services, the industries that are affected by this decision, women dominate. About 16 per cent of the retail workforce is made up of single parents, and you can bet they are mostly mums trying their utmost to make ends meet. These are the people who will be losing out as a result of this decision. As the shadow Treasurer pointed out today during the matter of public importance discussion, the decision will further increase the gender pay gap—the gender pay gap that the federal government and those opposite claim they are in favour of closing. Women's time, effort, abilities and the kind of work we do are already considered inherently less valuable. On 2 July the gender pay gap is going to get a whole lot worse.

Here is why women will be some of the hardest hit by Fair Work's decision. Women are substantially more likely to be employed on a part-time or casual basis, and more than 70 per cent of part-time workers are women. Women are most likely to be working on weekends and covering public holiday shifts. For a lot of mums, giving up their weekends to go to work at a time when Dad is available to look after the kids is not a choice, especially for single parents. It is a necessity caused in part by the high cost and inadequate provision of child care.

On 2 July that precious weekend time spent away from the family will instantly become less valuable for a whole lot of working mums. University of Sydney Business School professor, Marian Baird, said that the Fair Work Commission's decision will have a 'disproportionate and negative impact on women'. She said:

For many women, working on weekends is their only option because conventional career work on weekdays is too inflexible for them and there is no childcare.

Dr Baird said women represent more than 54 per cent of employees in retail and hospitality, the sectors which will be most affected by the reductions in Sunday penalty rates. Dr Baird said while the Fair Work Commission's decision looks at the composition of part-time workers it does not properly acknowledge the representation of males and females. Surprise, surprise! It also describes a category of jobs as 'non-career'. Dr Baird goes on:

This misses the point that for many women there is no other option as their so-called career jobs are impossible to manage if they have children, elder care or other family responsibilities. So they have been forced to take other work that is more flexible, but lower skilled and paid.

Women sacrifice family time and social activities by working on Sundays. Dr Lyn Craig, director of the University of New South Wales Social Policy Research Centre, has conducted research that suggests employees who work weekends, especially Sundays, never get to make up for the social time they lose. Dr Craig said penalty rates are being reduced at the same time welfare and family payments are also being cut. She said:

This will impact on single parents and young people who depend on those things at a time of the lowest wages growth we've had for a long time.

Marie Coleman, chair of the social policy committee of the women's lobby group, the National Foundation for Australian Women, said the Fair Work Commission's decision was a 'fair smash at younger women and female-headed families … It is a very rough deal.' It means a retail worker on $600 per week could expect to lose $80 per week, or $4160 a year. Marie Colman said, 'If the government's proposed cuts to income support are taken into account, she could lose up to $6000 a year.'

Women in my electorate and across the country are more likely to receive minimum award wages and more likely to rely on penalty rates to meet household expenses.


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