The Abbott government’s leaked Productivity Commission review has put penalty rates in the firing line, angering the two sectors most likely to be affected by any changes: Hospitality Workers and Nurses.
ACTU Assistant Secretary Tim Lyons said the timing shows just how out of touch the Abbott Government is with the Australian community, citing the Abbott government’s agenda to “cut penalty rates, cut the minimum wage and take away people’s rights at work.”
Tony Abbott’s comments seemed to be completely out of line with the reality of shift workers in the nursing profession, many of whom work in hospitals that never close over a 7 day / 24 hour period:
If you don’t want to work on a weekend, fair enough, don’t work on a weekend, but if you do want to work on a weekend and lots of people, particularly young people, particularly students, would love to work on the weekend, you want to see the employers open to provide jobs..
Contrary to these comments by Mr Abbott, it is rather unlikely that nurses have such luxury to simply choose whether or not to work weekends. Most nurses who are employed in a hospital work across all shifts including nights and weekends in order to fulfil their hospital’s expectations and requirements of staff to work across all shifts, rather than choosing to work these unpopular hours.
Annie Butler, the acting federal secretary of the Australian nursing and midwifery foundation, said that any changes to penalty rates “would have a devastating effect on the nurses in our industry”, with hospital based Nurses gearing up for union action should review of conditions occur.
People don’t stop being sick on weekends, people don’t stop having babies on weekends,” she said. “Nurses and midwifes will become extremely agitated if there are any threats to penalty rates, they make up to 40 per cent of their income from those hours.
ANMF Federal Secretary Lee Thomas stated that leaked terms of reference published today, indicated the Productivity Commission Inquiry will leave no part of the current industrial relations system untouched.
“It is simply a return to WorkChoices. Australians overwhelmingly voted against WorkChoices and Mr Abbott himself made a pre-election promise of not attacking workers’ wages and conditions,” Ms Thomas reiterated.
“Far from being dead, buried and cremated, as Mr Abbott said, it seems WorkChoices is being resurrected under the cover of the Productivity Commission.”
Ms Thomas further backed penalties and shift loadings for nurses who work in a 24/7 profession, stating “It’s only fair they are compensated for working at any hour of the day or night, on weekends, public holidays and special days like Christmas. The impact of stripping away penalty rates would have the effect of up to a 25% pay cut for nurses and midwives – that is unacceptable.”