REPORT: $31 million wage loss forecast for Hinkler, Wide Bay
HINKLER and Wide Bay workers would stand to lose a combined $31million if planned cuts to penalty rates are pursued, a leading research institute claims.
Figures released by the McKell Institute reveal the loss in penalty rate income over 2019-2022 for Hinkler weekend workers alone is forecast at $15.7 million.
Retail workers across Hervey Bay and Bundaberg would be the worst off, with $9.2million cut from the retail sector, while in hospitality the figure is $4.4 million and $1.6 for fast food staff.
In Wide Bay, the total loss is forecast at about $16.5 million.
The alarming figures have led United Voice Queensland, one of the state's leading unions, to question whether "thousands of aged care workers, emergency workers and manufacturing workers” would be on the "chopping block” if penalty rates are cut.
Hinkler MP Keith Pitt accused the union of "scaremongering” and said there was never a parliamentary vote on penalty rates.
"The Fair Work Commission sets pay and conditions for Australian workers paid under modern awards - not the government,” Mr Pitt said.
"Changes made to penalty rates meant small businesses are able to compete on a level playing field with the big businesses Bill Shorten and other union leaders did special deals with to sign away workers' penalty rates.”
Last month, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said he would restore the original penalty rate cuts in the first 100 days in office if Labor won the election.
The Australian Retail Association warned this action could force small business owners to cut staff and could end up driving some out of business.
But Wide Bay's Labor candidate Jason Scanes said it was "a bit overblown” and consumer confidence would return to the market.
"Obviously these are startling figures, that's essentially money out of our economy,” Mr Scanes said.
"It's part of a vicious cycle where cutting penalty rates to try and help businesses actually doesn't help.”
Wide Bay MP Llew O'Brien said Mr Shorten, acting as a minister in the Gillard Government, "stripped low-paid workers of their pay in exchange for benefits for himself and his union”.