'Unfair': Hundreds of thousands out of pocket as penalty rates cut

More than 700,000 workers will be hit by the Fair Work Commission decision, which deemed Sunday rates will drop from 200 per cent to 150 for full time and part time retail workers and to 175 per cent for casuals.

The decision will see the reduction of Sunday penalty rates in the retail industry from 200 per cent to 150 per cent for permanent staff and 175 per cent for casuals.

Fast food workers will have their Sunday penalty rates reduced to their Saturday rates.

Casual hospitality workers will get a 250% loading on public holidays instead of the current 275%, while retail workers than now receive a 275% public holiday loading will also be brought down to 250%.

But as the commission notes, things have changed so much since then that "deterrence" is no longer a "relevant consideration" in setting weekend and Sunday penalty rates.

"The Commission's consideration of over 130 lay witnesses and more than 6,000 public submissions demonstrates that all parties have had their positions properly considered", said Ward.

The commission said the reduction in penalty rates should boost employment in the sectors affected, though it could not quantify the boost.

"On the whole what we wanted to see in key services sectors was achieved; especially in retail and hospitality".

Matt Harris, national campaign manager for Professional Pharmacists Australia, slammed the Pharmacy Guild following the decision, saying "the Guild had a choice".

The political maelstrom that has erupting in the wake of Fair Work's verdict demonstrates the folly of allowing the wages of hundreds of thousands of workers to be single-handedly decided by an unelected and unaccountable body like the Fair Work Commission. There is no cut for casual hospitality staff.

"For example, going from a Sunday rate to a Saturday rate might be about $8 an hour".

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Except for the fast food area, the Sunday penalty rates have not been brought to the same level as Saturday penalty rates.

What did the Fair Work Commission base its decision on?

Professor Stewart said any decision to reduce penalty rates would not signal the end of Sunday penalty rates entirely.

The Full Bench of the commission agreed with the argument that there were likely to be some positive employment effects from reducing penalty rates but said they were hard to quantify.

A WODONGA business group welcomes the reduction in Sunday penalty rates, but agrees finding weekend staff could become more hard.

The rates for public holidays have also been reduced.

With or without penalty rates, Australian retail workers remain enjoy generous wages and conditions.

'We believe that parliament will have a capacity to consider remedying this decision, ' he said.

"I work weekends and study through the week", says Elias, who has worked in a Sydney bookstore for four years (he declined to give his last name).

Stewart said this meant the commission's "provisional view" was it would be best to phase the cuts in across-the-board rather than create two classes of worker: those hired before and after the decision, who would be paid different rates.

The decision was met with fury by the union movement and the Labor party.

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