There she was the usual picture of beauty, Effie Stephanidis gracing the screens of the Today show. Effie (Mary Coustas) proclaimed (and I paraphrase) that penalty rates on Sundays should be paid to those important professions like ambos and the like but not to hospitality workers. Damn, I thought she was one herself! I’m sure that Effie didn’t really mean it – surely she is not saying the waiting staff are lesser people than paramedics. Or did she mean that highly paid paramedics need the money more than the struggling single mums and university students – no I can’t believe she would think that.
Perhaps she believes that by employing the low paid on Sundays will mean that because they now have to work longer hours to make up the difference in pay it will keep them off the streets and stop them wasting money on food and the like. Or perhaps it could be one of the main drivers in this debate – because the Productivity Commission (those unelected, unaccountable to the public, bureaucrats) says it must be so, and business both big and small like the idea of paying out less money on labour. That doesn’t make it right. We constantly hear how our society is now a seven day a week society but that is simply not true. Just because shops are allowed to open seven days a week does not mean we are a seven day a week society. If this was the case, then schools would open seven days a week. Office workers would be toiling seven days a week. Public Servants would be working seven days a week. If we truly live in a seven day a week society why are we paying fire fighters, police, paramedics and hospital staff penalty rates? By the very definition of a seven day a week society we would have to remove penalty rates for all workers not just the lowest paid because they are easy targets.
Make no mistake, this attack on penalty rates is about placing more money into the pockets of employers so that the well heeled in society can continue to have their coffee and cake on the weekend. In The Age this week one commentator suggested that if penalty rates weren’t reduced then businesses may have to put an extra levy on the Sunday menu in order to cover costs (I think he was trying to frighten us with the prospect of dearer coffee). Now that is equitable – you want to go out for coffee and cake on a Sunday then you pay the extra instead of expecting some low paid employee to take a pay cut so that you can enjoy your coffee at their expense. Oh Effie, I think the romance is over.