Fast food workers under attack

February 6, 2010

Fast food workers have lost a promised rise in Sunday penalty rates, and nightly overtime for retail staff will be cut, after a ruling by Fair Work Australia.

The February 2 Age reported: "The rulings have shocked unions, but retailer groups yesterday remained critical of the federal government's modern award overhaul."

A separate ruling on the new retail award will mean shops that traditionally open late will not be required to pay overtime to staff until 11pm. Overtime payments now apply after 9pm on weekdays and 6pm on weekends.

The national secretary of the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association, Joe de Bruyn, said the cut to fast food penalty rates, from 75% to 50%, was "amazing" given the award began operating on January 1 and the union had considered the issue settled.

"Sunday is a big day for fast food and people will lose money," said Mr de Bruyn.

This decision will largely affect young workers, who are often concentrated in fast food and retail jobs. Young workers are especially vulnerable as they are often not represented by unions and are unaware of their rights at work.

Bosses are well known for ripping off young workers to make a quick buck. Youth rates in many fast food and retail stores mean young people are already grossly underpaid.

The concept of youth rates is nothing more than discrimination on the basis of age. The simple reason that bosses pay young workers such low wages is to cut costs in order to boost profits.

An April 2009 report by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development found people aged between 15 and 24 would be unduly affected by the economic crisis and the youth jobless rate was set to rise twice as fast as that for adult workers.

This decision is a setback for the rights of young workers.

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