Restaurants and cafes across Australia are lodging applications with Fair Work Australia to cut penalty rates for hospitality workers. Under the proposal penalty rates would only be paid to workers after their sixth shift – as opposed to all anti-social hours like late nights, weekends and public holidays.
Currently, employees in hospitality who work on Saturdays and Sundays are entitled to a 25% and 50% loading respectively regardless of the number of shifts they work.
Some of the largest business lobby groups such as the NSW Business Chamber and Restaurant and Catering Australia are hypocritically claiming that they can’t afford to pay penalty rates on weekends. This is despite many restaurants increasing their prices substantially in recent years.
Despite making record profits Australia’s three biggest banks, ANZ, Commonwealth and Westpac also lodged an application with Fair Work Australia to consider weekend work to be viewed as regular working days to avoid paying penalty rates. They have since withdrawn the application, likely due to the bad publicity they received.
The hospitality bosses are still pushing forward however, determined to drive down the wages of some of Australia’s lowest paid workers. Clearly the union movement needs a united response to this attack. Workers should not be forced to pay the price for an economic crisis that they did not create.
Same sex marriage rally
On May 12 around 4000 people gathered at the State Library in Melbourne for a rally to support same sex marriage. The crowd shouted chants and held banners in support of equal marriage rights. People of all ages and backgrounds joined forces to demand equality.
A slew of guest speakers ranging from activists to politicians and celebrities voiced their support with enthusiastic cheers. The rally then marched to the marriage registry office chanting ‘Gay, straight, black or white, marriage is a civil right‘.
Many speakers called on Julia Gillard to ‘get with the times’ noting that even US President Barack Obama has been forced to support equal marriage rights. In part Obama has changed his stance due to public pressure and he is hoping that it will boost his electoral chance later in the year.
The Socialist Party were present at the rally running an information stall and handing out material linking the issue of homophobia with the need to fight for a more equal society. Socialist Party members marched behind a banner which read ‘workers unite against homophobia’.
Anti TAFE cuts campaign
More than 2000 people protested at the Treasury Gardens in Melbourne on May 10 against the $300 million cuts to TAFE education made in the recent State budget.
The rally attracted TAFE students and staff as well as supporters from other trade unions and community groups who came to show solidarity. A number of speakers from the education unions spoke on the day but their message was effectively to wait for Labor to be re-elected.
On the ground most people were more interested in taking the movement to the streets with discussions taking place about the possibility of organising future rallies and even a strike.
The most popular stall at the protest was the Fightback! stall. Fightback! is a new campaign set up by the Socialist Party to address the rising cost of living. The privatisation of education and standing against budget cuts is one of the key issues the campaign is raising.
More than 90 people signed up to Fightback! on the day and Fightback! has pledged to continue to support the campaign against the TAFE cuts.
By Socialist Party reporters