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Nursing union stands in solidarity with workers facing penalty rate cuts

The Fair Work Commission has decided to reduce Sunday and public holiday penalty rates for people working in the hospitality, retail and fast-food industries, a move condemned by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF).

In handing down the decision, Commission president Iain Ross said the existing Sunday penalty rates in the hospitality, fast food, retail and pharmacy awards do not provide a fair and relevant minimum safety net.

The Commission announced that while casual hospitality workers will retain their existing penalty rates, all other groups of workers across the industries in question will have their penalty rates cut by between 25 and 50 per cent.

The union called the decision a cruel attack on the some of the country’s lowest-paid and, often, female workers.

Federal secretary Lee Thomas said the ANMF is now concerned its members in aged care and some other health settings would be at risk of losing their penalty rates.

Thomas said: “Today its workers in hospitality, retail and fast food, but this has opened the door for attacks on workers in other sectors, including health.

“Frontline nurses and midwives rely on penalty rates for a fifth of their income. They may be safe this time around, but for how long? Can the government guarantee that nurses and carers working in aged care won’t be next?”

Thomas added the ANMF will never support the introduction of a 2-tiered wage system where some workers are entitled to penalty rates and others are not.

“Whether you are a barista working on a Sunday, or a nurse working on a Sunday, or a carer working on a Sunday, it’s still working on a Sunday; and all workers should be paid penalty rates for doing so,” she said.

Thomas also pointed to ANMF surveys that have shown 80 per cent of its members would consider abandoning nursing and midwifery if they lost penalty rates.

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