The Secretary’s Report
By Chris Gazenbeek, SDA State Secretary
National Wage Case
The Fair Work Commission recently handed down its decision on the National Wage Case. The SDA and the ACTU strongly argued that the annual wage increase should be 4%. Alternatively, it was not surprising that some national employer groups argued for a zero percent increase.
The union movement argued that there was an economic need to rebuild domestic demand for goods and services and a 4% wage increase would be beneficial to the economy. Again the employer groups argued that wages should remain the same even though the cost of living continues to increase.
The Fair Work Commission handed down its decision on the 19th of June and decided for the first time to stagger the increases over the different sectors of the economy. For SDA Award-based members, the Commission granted a 1.75% increase from 1 February, 2021.
Quite frankly, a wage freeze until February is no way to thank retail and fast food workers who have continued to serve fellow Australians during Covid-19. Our hard-working members have ensured that families have had food on their tables, medicines to keep them healthy and fuel to power their vehicles.
Our members have faced emotional and physical abuse and are now thanked by the Fair Work Commission with a wage freeze.
The SDA is very happy that frontline health workers received their increase on 1 July; after all, they deserved it. Quite clearly, retail and fast food workers efforts should have been rewarded the same way by the Fair Work Commission. Delaying the minimum wage increase for retail and fast food workers is not only unfair, it is an insult.
Sunday Penalty Rate Cut
In 2017, the Fair Work Commission phased in a penalty rate deduction for Sunday penalty rates. The final reduction was going to take place from 1 July, 2020 .This cut would be inconsistent with the FWC’s Penalty Rates Decision in 2017 where the Commission stated that: “The phased reductions in Sunday penalty rates that we intend to make will be implemented at the same time as the implementation of any increases arising from the Annual Wage Review decision. This will usually mean that the affected employees will receive an increase in their base hourly rate of pay at the same time as they are affected by a reduction in Sunday penalty rates.”
Based on the FWC’s own words, the SDA applied to the FWC to delay the scheduled cut in Sunday penalty rates for retail and pharmacy employees. Also, the SDA National Executive made the decision that the Union would embark upon a television, radio and social media campaign which highlighted the unfairness of delaying the national wage increase for retail workers yet at the same time reducing the Sunday penalty rate.
However, in early July, the FWC did not rule in our favour. The SDA is extremely disappointed by this decision. It was and is completely unfair to essential workers such as retail workers who have kept the economy running throughout the pandemic. This decision meant the Retail Award penalty rates for working on Sunday were reduced for full-time and part-time employees from 165% to 150%.
As a result of the Fair Work Commission’s disappointing ruling, the SDA has again called on retail employers to pay a pay increase earlier than 1 February 2021. We are also calling on the Federal Government to pay a $1,500 recognition payment to frontline workers in the form of a direct tax rebate or a stimulus payment.
Finally, it is important to recognise that the decisions made by the Fair Work Commission have far reaching implications for our members. Increasing numbers of our Enterprise Agreements have their wages and penalties determined by the Annual Wage and Modern Award Reviews. For example, Coles, Big W, Kmart and Woolworths retail members have their wages directly impacted by the Annual Wage Review.
Tell us what this pay freeze and penalty rate cut means for you at: https://bit.ly/2OaeI70