It really is worth taking a position in favour of the recent Fair Work penalty rate changes, but please give us a moment before you hit the angry react, or share with a two-page rant to explain why.
To me, a person who once earned penalty rates, it can be tough to think that a reduction in weekend rate is fair as an individual. However, when we think about the number of people who cannot get jobs and the people who cannot go to closed stores in regional towns on the weekend, I can see the bigger picture.
It is fairer for business, but also… fairer to students.
Penalty rates hurt businesses, and especially hurt small family businesses trying to make a living. Those businesses often close on weekends, because they legitimately cannot afford to pay 200 per cent wages on a Sunday. So, for them to operate, they need to serve twice as many people on a Sunday as a Monday.
On the other hand, New Zealand once went through a similar process, and their cafes and restaurants open longer on weekends offering more places for weekend employment. Small businesses like these employ over half the total workforce in Australia. If these small businesses have more jobs available, more students can gain employment.
More jobs for students.
Students struggle to find casual work, which fits around their often-chaotic university schedule. Weekend work is one of the most stable times of the week to find access to income sources, but with penalty rates, a lot of businesses close on the weekend. Not only can students have trouble buying and shopping locally in their spare time (see Launceston on a Sunday), but with higher penalty rates there are less casual jobs available. Those cafes, clothes stores, and restaurants provide an opportunity for more students to remain financially viable. The emphasis is on more, for a reason.
Many of the negative responses on the change are coming from individual and personal perspectives, without forethought to the greater good. We believe more students having access to work is far more important than an additional 25 per cent for the smaller minority of students.
With the ability for more businesses to open, there is more options available for students to have a break from their studies. Whether it is the local hipster café for smashed avocado, a bookstore for a casual book, the cinema, and any other tourist/entertainment vendor, it is unsustainable to maintain a 200 per cent pay rate (for Sunday) for businesses to open longer hours.
The political note.
It is interesting to note, that the Fair Work Commission who changed penalty rates comprises five Labor-appointees, with three appointed by Bill Shorten.
The bigger picture is that it is not sustainable or equitable to push double pay weekends when small family businesses cannot open. More opening hours means flexible possibilities and better possibilities to employ Australians.
Joey Crawford is the Postgraduate President and a student Director of the Tasmania University Union.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed on the Togatus website are not those of the Togatus editors or support staff.