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.

Photo of Sharon BirdSharon Bird (Cunningham, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Vocational Education) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the motion seconded?

5:27 pm

Photo of Susan LambSusan Lamb (Longman, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion. I am very pleased to follow the member for Lindsay, a wonderful representative for her electorate and an advocate for families and working women. I am very pleased to follow the member for Lindsay. I am pleased to join her in opposing this government's cruel and vicious cuts to the penalty rates of workers in Australia that they seek to implement on 1 July. It means that in less than two weeks this government will be cutting the take-home pay of up to 700,000 hardworking Australians.

Today I stand in solidarity with those workers to oppose this government's changes to the Fair Work Act because these changes are anything but fair. How could it be fair that the government looks to cut the take-home pay of ordinary Australian workers while at the same time giving a huge tax cut to big business? How could it be fair that workers have to miss out on countless weekends with their families—barbecues, birthdays, going to sporting matches or spending time with friends? How is it fair that they will lose a little bit of the compensation they receive for working on those Sundays? How could it be fair that the government's cuts to penalty rates will further widen the gender pay gap which really should have been left behind in the ancient past?

This decision will have a disproportionate effect on women. Women make up 54 per cent of the workforce in the fast-food industry, 55 per cent of workers in the general retail industry and 77 per cent of workers in the pharmacy industry, and in the hair and beauty industry—for which this government refuses to rule out these same cuts—women account for 87 per cent of the workforce. It is obvious that thousands more women will be affected by this penalty rates cut, and they will be affected more than men will be. Thousands of women rely on their penalty rates, not just to meet household expenses. They use that extra income to pay the rent. They feed their families. The question is: will they have their take-home pay cut by this government? There are two weeks to go, two weeks for the government to make this change and save this.

I am just astonished by this decision. I really am. On 2 July, the very first Sunday that these workers will see the penalty rates cut, it will be exactly one year since Prime Minister Turnbull and his government won the 2016 election. Since then, they really have done nothing. They have done nothing to support our families, nothing at all, and nothing to support workers. They have done nothing to create jobs, and they have done nothing to protect Medicare.

A division having been called in the House of Representatives

Sitting suspended from 17:31 to 17:44

We are here today to speak about penalty rates, and women in particular. We know that they disproportionately affect women. Around 77 per cent of our pharmacy workers are women, and on 2 July they are going to be faced with a cut to their take-home pay. As I said earlier, these are women who are paying the rent and they are feeding and raising their families. They need this money and they deserve this money. They are giving up their weekends, they are giving up family time. Paying them penalty rates is not just the right thing to do, it is also what they deserve.

We have got to look at who is making this decision to cut penalty rates. It is the Turnbull government. On 2 July, they will celebrate 12 months since the 2016 election. What else have we seen? We have seen nothing, basically. They have done nothing to create jobs and nothing to protect Medicare. Let us look at Medicare. The first thing they did was actually a really cheap and cowardly attack on Australian workers. This is a government that really does stand for the rich and for big business; it turns its back on ordinary workers and ordinary Australians. What sort of government gives big business a huge tax cut that will leave millionaires $16,400 better off while, at the same time, cuts the take-home pay of workers? They know it is wrong.

There are two speaking spots left on this motion and there are two government members over there. I wonder if they are going to take the opportunity to hop up and speak about penalty rates and speak in support of the member for Lindsay's motion, speak in support of penalty rates and the women in their electorates. I wonder if they are going to get up and do that. I doubt it very much. It is time to stop these cruel cuts. They have got two weeks to do it and I hope by the time we rise on Thursday night that is what they do. (Time expired).

Photo of Sharon BirdSharon Bird (Cunningham, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Vocational Education) Share this | | Hansard source

The time allotted for the debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.