THE weekend penalty rates of thousands of low-paid Queensland workers employed by four corporate giants have been slashed under deals struck by the Australian Workers’ Union.
The dud agreements, which were struck by Queensland AWU state secretary Ben Swan and expire this year, have left weekend workers hundreds of dollars worse off each year and bear similarities to deals struck by Bill Shorten when he was head of the AWU.
In some cases, workers banking on Sunday penalty rates had more than one-third stripped from their hourly rate, making them almost $8 an hour worse off.
But in a move described as a “higher level of hypocrisy”, Mr Swan has authorised a union campaign to attack Malcolm Turnbull for cutting penalty rates.
The poster says, “Tell Malcolm Turnbull why penalty rates matter”.
The Courier-Mail can reveal the deals struck with Masters (now defunct), Coles Liquor Group, KFC and Bunnings gave weekday workers a marginal pay rise but it came at the expense of weekend workers, who are less likely to be members of a union.
The agreements affected up to 14,000 workers but it is unclear how many people were worse off and how many were better off because it depended on their roster.
The Masters agreement cut the Sunday hourly rate by more than $5 an hour – from $38.88 to $33.27. The Coles agreement cut the Sunday rate by $7.09, KFC by $7.97, and Bunnings by $1.55.
Labor insiders say unions are willing to sacrifice the rates of casual weekend workers because they are less likely to join a union.
Employment Minister Michaelia Cash accused Labor and the unions of trading away workers’ rights when it suited them.
“The campaign by unions and the Labor Party on penalty rates has now reached a higher level of hypocrisy,” Senator Cash said.
“Despite aggressively condemning a decision by the Fair Work Commission to reduce award penalty rates, Bill Shorten and now Ben Swan have each negotiated and signed deals that cut penalty rates for thousands of workers.
“While they pretend to be outraged at penalty rates decisions by the Fair Work Commission, they seem to believe that cutting penalty rates is fine if it is done by a union, and that union is also a generous donor to Labor.”