Nurses campaign to protect penalty rates


A television advertisement featuring a barista paying his way through university, a mother working at a checkout who is missing her children's sporting activities and an emergency department nurse whose weekend work makes up one-third of her salary, is part of the Save Our Weekend campaign authorised by the ACTU.

Hundreds of thousands of workers like these could be affected if proposals from the Productivity Commission Inquiry are implemented. They recommended that Sunday penalty rates be reduced to those of Saturday for hospitality, retailing, entertainment, restaurants and cafes.

While the current proposals do not include nurses, midwives and emergency services, NSW Nurses and Midwives Association (NSWNMA) acting general secretary Judith Kiejda said: “There is no doubt this attack will eventually flow to the health and aged care sectors. Nurses, midwives and carers rely on penalty rates for 20% of their take home pay.”

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation commissioned a report by the McKell Institute that has found that if Sunday penalty rates were reduced to those of Saturday, nurses and midwives would suffer a pay cut of $1900 a year. This adds up to a total of $359 million coming from the pockets of nurses and midwives across Australia.

At a press conference on December 21 in response to the release of the Productivity Commission Inquiry, national secretary of the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) Gerard Dwyer — the union that covers retail, fast food and warehouse workers — criticised the creation of a two-tiered penalty rate structure. He said the prime minister would effectively be “telling hard working people in industries like retail and hospitality that they are less important than the rest of Australia”.

The NSWNMA is committed to the campaign to maintain penalty rates. Kiejda said: “Our members across NSW are very passionate about their jobs and their penalty rates. They will not let this issue go without a fight because they're aware that if penalty rates are changed in one sector, it won't be long before they change in health.”

[Go to the website to sign the petition, register your support and get involved in the campaign.]

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