Single mum’s pay cut under Labor’s ‘modern award’

September 10, 2010

Susan Balog is a single mother and student who works in the retail industry for three hours, or sometimes four, on Sundays. Following Labor’s award modernisation process, she suddenly found herself worse off.

Last week, she represented herself in Fair Work Australia and became the first worker to successfully get a “take home pay order” against her employer.

Fast Future Brands, which opposed the order, told Fair Work Australia it cut Balog’s pay by $6.72 “in line with what the modern award had specified”. The award “safety net” rate for retail workers was cut as part of an “award modernisation” process that replaced more than 2000 federal and state awards with just 130 “simpler” awards.

By “simplifying” awards, many conditions were stripped away.

On May 6, Julia Gillard, who was then workplace relations minister, introduced a provision to allow workers to apply to Fair Work Australia for a take-home pay order if their pay had been cut due to the “modern award”.

But take-home pay orders are not available if pay has been cut under modern awards through changes to minimum hours or rosters. Importantly, these orders apply only to workers employed in the same or similar position with the employer prior to award modernisation. New employees must endure the lower modern award rate.

Eight months after the modern award came into effect, Balog is the first person to get a “take-home pay order”. She was the first of more than 750 workers at Fast Future Brands to have the courage to take her employer to Fair Work Australia to get it. It is not known how many more workers have had their pay cut under Labor’s modern awards.

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