Fair Work Commission Review of Penalty Rates


This morning the independent Fair Work Commission released its decision in relation to penalty rates and other conditions in selected industries as part of its four yearly review of modern awards.

This decision considered 6 of the 122 modern awards, covering the retail, fast food, hospitality and pharmacy industries. It resulted in adjustments to certain penalty rates and public holiday rates in the Hospitality, Retail, Fast Food, Restaurant and Pharmacy Awards. No other award is affected.

The adjustments to these rates will apply to employees in these industries whose terms and conditions are set by awards. The Commission’s decision includes detailed reasons why it has adjusted certain rates and declined to adjust other rates. These are matters for the Commission to determine based on the detailed submissions that have been presented to it, which included 5,900 submissions and 143 witnesses giving evidence. The Commission has recommended that appropriate transitional arrangements are necessary for those employees who work on Sundays.

It is an inconvenient truth for the Labor Party that in 2013 Bill Shorten as Workplace Relations Minister amended the Fair Work Act to specifically require the Fair Work Commission to review penalty rates as part of the four yearly review process.

Today’s decision by the Commission to adjust penalty rates is therefore a direct result of the review process put in place by Bill Shorten.

Any suggestion by Bill Shorten and the Labor Party that they do not accept this decision is highly hypocritical. Bill Shorten needs to explain why he instigated a wide-ranging review of penalty rates if does not support a change in penalty rates.

Bill Shorten is responsible for establishing the framework that has led to today’s decision. He cannot now escape responsibility for the outcome of this process.

The Turnbull Government’s position has been consistent and clear – the setting of penalty rates are a matter for the independent Fair Work Commission to determine, not Government. The Government has no plans to change the way penalty rates are set.

There is only one man in Parliament who has a history of directly reducing penalty rates and that is Bill Shorten. When he was leader of the Australian Workers Union, Mr Shorten was responsible for numerous agreements which reduced or removed penalty rates, including for some of Australia’s lowest paid workers.

The Labor Party is desperate to shift responsibility for today’s decision, however it is a transparent effort to distract attention away from the fact that its own leader was the architect of this review.