Penalty rate fury

THUNDEROUS chants of “Stand Up, Fight Back” echoed through Forrest Place on Monday during an emotionally-charged demonstration against penalty rate cuts and casualisation of the workforce.

Sally McManus, secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, captivated the boisterous crowd with a passionate speech that described big corporations as “criminal” for underpaying workers and evading taxes.

“Too much wealth and too much power has gone to the top,” Ms McManus said.

“They just go about breaking the laws and avoiding the laws that our parents and our great-grandparents have built.

• Sally McManus.

“We will not accept a society where rules are written just for the rich.

“We will lead a movement, a fight to bring fairness back to Australia.”

The rally follows last month’s controversial announcement by the Fair Work Commission to reduce Sunday and public holiday penalty rates for full-time and part-time workers in hospitality, retail and fast-food.

It will have a big impact on Fremantle because of the city’s reliance on the hospitality sector, but cafes the Herald spoke to said they were still digesting the decision and most weren’t sure whether they’d be reducing rates or not.

Fremantle Chamber of Commerce CEO Olwyn Williams says it will depend on the circumstances.

“If your employment is covered by an enterprise bargaining agreement it has no impact,” Ms Williams says.

“There will be some employers who will respect the rates they currently pay employees and others that will seek to reduce.”

United Voice, the union that covers hospitality workers, disputes the commission’s claim the move will allow businesses to increase the workforce and says it will just mean employees will work longer to make a wage.

But Ms Williams says market forces may provide a fail-safe.

“Natural market forces will kick in: if employers can’t find the right people to work at the time they need them, they may well have to focus back on rates of pay offered.”

by JASMINE KAZLAUSKAS and KORO BROWN

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