Senate ‘moves the goalposts’ on penalty rates

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National Party backbencher George Christensen has crossed the floor in the Senate, resulting in a 73-72 win in favour of overturning the Fair Work Commission’s ruling on Sunday penalty rates.

Master Grocers Australia says retailers won a hard fought and fairly argued victory in the Fair Work Commission with the successful reduction of Sunday penalty rates and now this has been pulled from under them by a razor-edge win for its opponents in the Senate.

“This is a massive setback for the retail industry,” MGA CEO Jos de Bruin said. “In less than eight months from when the Fair Work Commission handed down its decision and retailers made new plans for the future of their businesses, this hard-fought victory is about to be snatched away from them.

“This has been done by those who have chosen to overturn a decision that was made by an organisation created by the parliament to make fair decisions for the future productivity and prosperity of this country. This action is difficult to comprehend when a group of politicians cannot accept the decision of the fairly constituted court.”

The National Retail Association demanded the Senate stop “moving the goalposts” on employment, saying constant threats of disruption to Fair Work arrangements are a massive disincentive to employment.

“Retail business owners – the people who put their hands in their pockets to provide jobs for 1.2 million employees across Australia – have followed faithfully the rules that were set out by Labor,” NRA CEO Dominique Lamb said. “The decision of the Fair Work Commission has now also been upheld by the Federal Court.

“And yet, because the opposition doesn’t like the verdict given by its independent commission, it wants to claim for the parliament the right to set penalty rates and prevent the commission making a fair and balanced decision after weighing up all the evidence.

“This is an extraordinary overreach.”

Mr de Bruin says the MGA urges the House of Representatives to “respect the Fair Work Commission decision and not to support this bill, as it will wreak havoc in the retail industry and destroy the survival of thousands of small-to-medium family and private businesses that need this small window of opportunity to survive”.

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