More than 200 people rallied to support of maintaining penalty rates at Capalaba Sports Club on September 5.
The protest was called by United Voice to protest against the club’s decision to scrap penalty rates for workers and sack those who would not sign an agreement to trade away penalty rates, which would mean a wage cut of up to $300 a week.
Casual staff at Capalaba Sports Club were told in May that an external company, Hospitality X, would be taking over staff management. In August they were presented with a new industrial agreement stripping all penalty rates and given 72 hours to sign up or lose their jobs.
The timing of this decision coincided with the Productivity Commission’s draft report, which recommended aligning Sunday and Saturday rates in the hospitality, entertainment and retail industries. Public hearings are still being held and the final report is expected to be handed down in November.
Samarah Wilson a former worker at the club who was sacked when she refused to sign the new contract spoke to the protest. She worked at the club for 18 months to support herself while studying at university. Most of the casual workers at the club were young students or sole parents who relied on penalty rates to survive.
Wilson said: “I couldn’t afford to take a $5000 annual hit while maintaining the same hours, and I also thought that what we were being asked to do was really unfair, so I didn’t sign. Losing my job was incredibly stressful, but the whole situation has been even worse for the workers who are still there and struggling to make ends meet.”
Other speakers included Queensland Council of Unions President John Battams and ALP candidate for the seat of Bowman Kim Williams. The focus of the speeches was on defeating the threat to penalty rates by electing a Labor government.
This is in line with the ACTU campaign to keep penalty rates by campaigning in marginal seats before the next federal election.
But experience has shown that the election of a Labor government does not result in scrapping anti-worker laws and a more concerted, independent, campaign is necessary.