Penalty rate cuts devastating for local workers

William Vallely for The Bendigo Advertiser discussing the McKell Institute’s research into penalty rates. 

How many sacrifices should you make?
It’s a question university student, Claire*, had agonised over for a number a months before the Fair Work Commission ruling on Thursday effectively pulled money from her pocket.
The landmark ruling will cut casual retail rates, among other sectors, from 200-150% on Sundays, however changes are not expected to be felt until 2018.
Claire, like a number of casual workers in Bendigo, is a university student working in retail.
The 22-year-old, already with two jobs, recently moved to part-time and online education in order to be more available to work.
“It’s so upsetting, so hard, you don’t want to think of yourself as someone who is struggling,” she said.
“Cutting back to part-time to make yourself more flexible to do jobs that you have no intention of doing as a career is a bit of blow anyway.
“The further cuts are just a smaller slice of the pie (for workers).”
Studying, and working when you can, created an anti-social existence for a lot of university students like Claire.
“The biggest problem is we are already giving up family and sports time and extra curricular things to work Sundays,” she said.
The context of Bendigo’s struggles with unemployment and affordable housing further compounded Claire’s situation.
Finding a house can be difficult – even more so with inconsistent pay slips.
“You need evidence you are earning,” said Claire, who found her current house three months after beginning her search.
Claire’s inconsistent work flow has forced her to explore other employment avenues.
“I’ve tried to get another part time job. I’ve applied for jobs in Bendigo for years and not even made it to some group interviews – there’s such an unemployment rate now,” she said.
With two years left on her postgraduate course, Claire hopes she doesn’t have to cut back her education further to support herself financially.
“I’m only doing a subject a semester and doing it from far away (online) is really hard,” she said.
A recent report by the McKell institute examining the financial impact of reduced penalty rates concluded cuts would create a “substantial decline in regional and rural economies”.
“It would have disastrous impacts on the financial viability of local businesses who rely on the wages of local employees,” the report said.
The report suggested retail and hospitality workers in regional Australia would lose between $370 million and $1.55 billion each year.

*Claire is not her real name, the Bendigo Advertiser has chosen to give her a pseudonym to protect her identity.