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$80 MILLION IN LOST PAY: How much the public holidays are costing Aussie workers

(Photos: Getty)
(Photos: Getty)

With the Easter holidays closely followed by ANZAC day, thousands of Aussies will only have three days of work across a ten-day period.

But for those working in the hospitality and retail sector, work doesn’t stop over the weekends or public holidays.

And according to new research by the Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work director Jim Stanford and United Voice, it’ll also mean $80 million in lost pay thanks to public holiday penalty rate cuts, implemented at the start of 2017.

What are the numbers?

For 2019, public holidays and Sundays will see $16 million and over $8 million in lost pay respectively, compared to the pre-2017 giddy highs where workers enjoyed a bumper pay during these times.

More than half a million Aussies work in retail or hospitality on any given Sunday. And that’s not to mention the upcoming Easter and ANZAC period, meaning losses will be exacerbated further.

“Over that 10-day period, we estimate that wages will be $80 million lower than if penalty rates had been maintained,” Stanford wrote in his briefing note.

But the damage won’t end there.

“The problem is getting worse, due to continuing reductions in Sunday penalties (with further cuts scheduled on 1 July this year and, for industries covered by the General Retail and Hospitality awards, again next year),” he wrote.

And once the penalty rate cuts are fully implemented after 2020, the loss in wages will come to $107 million for the same 10-day holiday cluster.

Who will suffer most?

It’ll be Australia’s lower-income earners who will be bearing the brunt of the loss in wages due to these cuts.

This policy is imposing a substantial income loss on a group of workers who are already vulnerable to low and uncertain earnings, Stanford explained.

Trade union United Voice Victoria assistant secretary Ben Redford said the $80 million wage loss was “unacceptable” and said millions of workers relied on penalty rates to make ends meet.

“It is a wage loss that these workers can’t afford and don’t deserve,” he said.

“They shouldn’t have to put up with lost wages from penalty rate cuts, or live in fear that they will be next on the chopping block.”

Sally McManus, national secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), also said the penalty cuts had “driven hundreds of thousands of workers and their families towards poverty”.

“These cuts affected some of our lowest paid workers,” she said.

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