Andrew Broad: cut penalty wages

MEMBER for Mallee Andrew Broad has backed a cut to penalty wages, arguing current pay and conditions are hurting businesses across the Wimmera.

The Federal Government is holding a Productivity Commission review of the workplace relations framework, with the final report to be handed down in April 2015.

Mr Broad said businesses throughout his electorate had raised concerns regarding the cost of staying open on weekends and public holidays.

"At the end of the day while everyone would like to be paid a little bit more, if the business is shutting its doors because the rates are too high then balance is too far one way," he said.

"It's fairly prevalent among tourist towns, we want to drive tourism and get people to come to regional Victoria."

He said he would back any changes to wages and conditions provided they would assist business, and lower wages would mean more jobs.

"I think the ultimate aim is to have business open for business and that ultimately then provides more employment opportunities," Mr Broad said.

He said wage balance was too far in favour of employees and wages needed to be lowered.

"It's always finding the balance between a worker being worth their wages and a business making profit and the balance has swung too far because you've got business telling me they are not opening," he said.

Australian Council of Trade Unions president Ged Kearney disputed Mr Broad's anecdotal evidence, saying demand was a greater issue for businesses in the tourism and hospitality sectors.

“There is no evidence to show that wages that are the issue and we need to take a really hard look at this,” she said.

She said it was a myth that keeping wages down would save jobs and assist small businesses in the region. Removing penalty wages could take between $80 and $200 out of people’s local spend.

“In all our experience in other countries such as the US, where in hospitality wages are $2.50 to $3 an hour, it’s meant people can’t make a living at all,” Ms Kearney said.

“If we really want to help small businesses in regional and rural areas like the Wimmera then the last thing we need to do is drive down the wages of workers who are also customers of local businesses.”

Ms Kearney said the focus should be on how to assist small business without causing workers major financial stress through cutting their wages.

Business Horsham members discussed penalty rates at a meeting last night.

Mr Broad has joined a number of conservative regional MPs who have called for cuts to penalty rates in recent weeks, including Member for Wannon Dan Tehan.

The draft terms of reference include trying to determine ‘fair and equitable pay and conditions for employees, including the maintenance of a relevant safety net’ and ‘the ability for employers to fl exibly manage and engage with their employees’.

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