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‘Outrageous attack’: Thousands to give up overtime pay

A popular McDonalds location across Flinders Street Station is seen empty during peak hour as the coronavirus continues to rapidly spread in  Melbourne, Australia on March 23, 2020. From midday on March 23, 2020, venues such as bars, nightclubs, cinemas, restaurants and gyms and any other non-essentials are to close down until further notice from the government to help combat the spread of the virus. Australia currently has 2,136 cases of COVID-19. The death toll for Australia now stands at 8. (Photo by Mikko Robles/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Fast-food workers at companies like McDonalds will give up overtime pay. Image: Getty

Australian part-time fast-food workers will forgo overtime penalty rates under a deal to keep staff employed.

The deal has been agreed upon by the Australian Industry Group (AIG), the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA), and is touted as a way to ensure fast-food workers don’t fall through the cracks.

However, the smaller Retail and Fast Food Workers Union described the new deal as an “attack” on fast-food worker rights.

“What were you doing on May Day (1 May)? The SDA was agreeing with the bosses (AIG) to attack Fast Food worker rights,” the union said in a statement on Facebook.

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“They are trying to implement the very clause the Fair Work Commission rejected as casualising part time work in 2019. A case we fought tooth and nail - defeating the SDA's attack on workers.

“This time there is no evidence for the change and no time for workers to defend themselves. The application specifically targets visa workers who are not eligible for Job Keeper too. It's an outrageous attack on worker rights.”

The scheme will only apply to employees who cannot access JobKeeper, in what the AIG and SDA described as a means of keeping those staff employed, as fast-food businesses claim the coronavirus pandemic has severely hit their bottom lines.

The deal will see thousands of workers give up the extra pay for three months, and will allow part-time workers and their bosses to agree on a set minimum number of hours. Employers can then roster those staff additional hours beyond that, but will not be required to pay overtime on those hours.

The changes to the default fast-food industry pay would also allow businesses to ask fast-food employees to take annual leave and unpaid leave. Employees can only refuse if the request is deemed “unreasonable”.

Employees who are placed on unpaid leave are allowed to request to take on secondary employment, professional development or training, and bosses can’t refuse unless that request is also unreasonable.

"It is in everyone’s interests to preserve the viability of businesses and preserve as many jobs as possible during the COVID-19 crisis, and this is the objective of the proposed award variations,” Australian Industry Group CEO Innes Willox said.

"The fast food industry is one of the biggest employers of young people in Australia, and young people are particularly vulnerable in economic downturns.”

The Fair Work Commission has issued provisional approval and listed the case for a hearing on Tuesday.

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