Annual Wage Review 2015 -2016: ACCER Submission
30 March 2016
In its submission to the Annual Wage Review 2015-2016, the Australian Catholic Council for Employment Relations (ACCER) is seeking the following orders by the Fair Work Commission (FWC):
- The National Minimum Wage (NMW) be set at $682.00 per week and $17.95 per hour.
- Award wage rates be increased by $19.00 per week.
The claim in respect of the NMW is for an increase of $25.10 per week.
These claims are made in an annual wage review which requires the FWC to set a "safety net of fair minimum wages" by taking into account, among others, "relative living standards and the needs of the low paid"; Fair Work Act 2009, section 284(1). This obligation applies to the setting of the NMW and award wage rates. Because the subsection also requires the FWC to take into account "the performance and competitiveness of the national economy, including productivity, business competitiveness and viability, inflation and employment growth" when setting safety net wages, the setting of fair minimum wages requires the weighting and balancing of economic and social considerations. Social considerations are not uniform across the range of minimum wage rates. The term "safety net" is not defined, but it is a beneficial provision that is intended to protect workers, especially those who are low paid and who depend on the NMW and low-paid award rates.
Read the full submission: ACCER Submission to the Annual Wage Review 2015 2016
ACCER and CCER reject legislative and other attempts to abolish or reduce weekend penalty rates
17 February 2016
The ACCER and CCER have made a joint submission to the Fair Work Commission Penalty Rates Case.
The FWC Penalty Rates Case arises from employer applications to vary specific awards in the retail and hospitality sectors to reduce penalty rates. The applications were made during the four yearly review of modern awards and have subsequently been dealt with as a common issue by a specially constituted Full Bench. Broadly, the applications seek to reduce Sunday penalty rates, in some cases by aligning them with the Saturday rates, and to reduce penalty rates paid on public holidays. Some applications also seek to reduce the applicable Saturday rate.
ACCER and CCER also note the recent recommendations made by the Productivity Commission (PC) that the FWC should, as part of its current award review process:
- set Sunday penalty rates that are not part of overtime or shift work at the higher of 125% and the existing Saturday award rate for permanent employees in the hospitality, entertainment, retail, restaurant and cafe industries.
- set weekend penalty rates to achieve greater consistency between the above industries, but without the expectation of a single rate across all of them.
- investigate whether weekend penalty rates for casuals in these industries should be set so that casual penalty rates on weekends would be the sum of the casual loading and the revised penalty rates applying to permanent employees, with the principle being that there should be a clear rationale for departing from this.
- provide one year’s notice before these changes are made.
ACCER and CCER do not support the PC recommendations to reduce Sunday penalty rates in the hospitality, entertainment, retail, restaurants and cafe industries or to provide greater consistency in weekend rates in those industries where that would result in rate reductions. We do not support the requirement for the FWC to implement the reductions through the award review process.
ACCER and CCER oppose the applications in the Penalty Rates Case to vary specific awards in the retail and hospitality sectors to reduce penalty rates, in particular reductions to Sunday rates.
ACCER and CCER reject legislative and other attempts to abolish or reduce weekend penalty rates due to concerns about the negative impact on the incomes of vulnerable workers and the detrimental impact of unsociable working hours on rest, recreation, and family time.
Around one third of Australian workers are required to work weekends and regularly miss important family engagements, social occasions and sporting events. In the retail and hospitality sectors the proportion is much higher with 72% of workers in the accommodation and food services sector and 56% of workers in the retail sector working on weekends.
These are also the sectors with the largest number of low paid, award reliant employees. Reducing Sunday penalty rates will disproportionately affect minimum wage earners, who rely on penalty rates to protect their living standards. For many low paid workers, Sunday penalty rates are an inherent part of the safety net and any reduction would have a major and often devastating impact on these workers and their families.
Reductions will also have flow on effects of reducing workers’ disposable income with adverse consequences on their ability to purchase goods and services from other businesses affecting the wider economy. This impact would be particularly felt in regional areas.
It is fundamentally inequitable to treat the retail and hospitality industries differently to others such as nursing, aged care, police, and other essential services workers, where existing penalty rates will and should continue to be paid. We oppose a two-tier system that unfairly targets Australia’s lowest paid workers because of lower skills, and historical industry differences.
Further, arguments that a reduction in Sunday penalty rates would result in higher demand for labour and increased retail and hospitality job opportunities particularly for young people are not convincing. There is no reliable evidence or economic analysis that removing penalty rates will boost employment and job creation put before the FWC to date.
Rest, recreation and family time is valued and work in unsociable hours precludes workers from these opportunities. Those who argue for rate reductions argue that Sunday hours are of equal value to Saturday hours, however Sunday retains special status as a day preserved for family time, particularly for parents with children. Research continues to show that quality time is essential to keeping families strong, a key value of the Catholic Church.
It is widely acknowledged that Sunday employment more adversely affects outside activities and relationships compared with Saturday work, which in our view undermines the proposition that the penalty paid for working such time on Sunday should be reduced or aligned with the Saturday rate.
ACCER and CCER accept that a wide range of work in unsocial hours is, and will continue to be, necessary to meet the community's economic and social needs. However, many workers have no real ‘choice’ to not work weekends because they need penalty rates income to survive. By lowering Sunday penalty rates the ‘choice’ would be to work additional hours to earn the same income.
In our view, a penalty should continue to be paid for the family time that is sacrificed by those workers and not reduced. While penalty rates cannot remedy the negative impacts of working unsociable hours, they can provide fair and just compensation for some of them.
If the premium of paying penalty rates for weekend work is reduced, there will be further encroachment on time spent with family and friends.
Further, if the trade off for this detriment, is the promise by employers of a boost to employment and more job creation, it is not evident from the data they have provided to date.
In accordance with the explicit legislative protections for a fair and relevant minimum safety net of terms and conditions, and the evident disabilities associated with working unsociable hours, penalty rates should be protected, not reduced.
Gaudium et Spes and the economic foundations of family life: decent work and a wage that is worthy of a human being
10 November 2015
On 5 and 6 November 2015 the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace held a conference to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes). The conference, with the forward-looking theme, Young generations at the service of mankind,was held at theNew Synod Hall, Vatican City and The Church Palace, Rome.
One of the papers at the conference, Gaudium et Spes and the economic foundations of family life: decent work and a wage that is worthy of a human being, was presented by Brian Lawrence, Chairman of the Australian Catholic Council for Employment Relations.
The conference was held within two weeks of the conclusion of the 2015 Synod on the Family. The paper notes that there is much unfinished business in regard to the Church’s pastoral response to families and it is clear that one of the matters that needs closer attention through study, reflection and advocacy is the economic position of families throughout the world.
“The welfare of families in the modern world is intimately bound with questions about work, wages and governmental policies. We need to address the economic foundations of family life, with particular reference to widespread poverty among families. Poverty is a threat to families, both in the ability of men and women to prepare for family life and in their ability to sustain a nurturing environment for their children. Children disadvantaged by poverty are most likely to carry their burdens into adult life and into the lives of their own children.” (Paragraph 12)
The three principal purposes of the paper are to review the Church’s teaching on work and wages, identify some contemporary issues concerning work and wages and provide some views on how we might respond to these contemporary issues. Emphasis is given to the position of low paid and marginalised workers, especially those with family responsibilities.
The paper explains how decent work and a wage that is worthy of a human being are human rights and why we cannot separate the rights of families from the rights of workers. Decent work and decent wages must take into account the position of workers with family responsibilities.
The paper argues that a decent standard of living for workers with family responsibilities cannot be supplied by wages alone in a contemporary globalised economy and that families must be supported by strong social safety nets. It argues the welfare of families in globalised economies also depends on governmental policies that promote employment, with the costs of those policies being spread across the whole of the community through governmental taxation and expenditure measures.
The paper includes a review of a number of issues concerning wage and family policies that have emerged in Australia, which, the paper argues, provide a framework for better understanding the economic circumstances of low income families and the roles that wages and family payments policies have on them. It argues that these can make a useful contribution to the Catholic Church’s national and international advocacy in support of families, especially those who are poor and marginalised.