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MEDIA RELEASE | Essential workers yesterday, wages cut today

The SDA is deeply disappointed at the decision of the Fair Work Commission to punish retail workers by cutting their penalty rates as they risk their heath and safety to provide essential services for the rest of the community.

The FWC today denied an application from the the SDA to delay cuts to penalty rates until February when the already deferred increase in the minimum wage for retail workers comes into effect.

This is unjust and unfair.

Right now in Victoria, where 10 postcodes in Melbourne have been locked down, retail employees are working away in local supermarkets, petrol stations, pharmacies and fast food outlets at considerable risk to the health to make sure residents get what they need.

At the height of the COVID-19 panic buying and the subsequent government ordered lockdowns the Prime Minister acknowledged that employees in supermarkets, pharmacies, service stations and fast food outlets were essential workers.

In the face of abuse and threats of violence as well as risks to their heath, retail workers stepped up to ensure the community had food on their tables, petrol in their vehicles and medicines for their wellbeing.

Essential workers two months ago, second class citizens now, slapped with an immediate pay cut and a pay freeze (in real terms a further pay cut) for eight months.

They’ve stepped up, turned up, served the community and what do they get?

Zero increase in wages and now a cut to their Sunday penalty rate – a day they could otherwise be spending with their loved ones. Some 70 percent of Australians still work Monday to Friday.

New research from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library shows that the cuts to penalty rates imposed in the last three years have cost a typical pharmacy assistant $4,800; a retail employee $4,300 and a casual retail employee $2,100.

This has really hurt the living standards of some of the lowest paid workers in the community, who now have even less scope for saving just as they boost the economy by spending most of what they earn.

Some thanks for performing what the Prime Minister acknowledges is an essential service.