Labor claims reforms will be $1000 hit for some workers

Labor has accused the government of giving workers a summer holiday pay cut as it pushes ahead with plans to alter penalty rates.

The government will push ahead with a suite of industrial relations reforms in 2021.

It will also seek provisions allowing distressed industries employers to pay a “loaded rate”, a higher hourly rate, instead of penalties like public holiday rates.

The opposition claimed that, if passed, the laws could mean some workers would lose up to $1000 in holiday penalty rates if they worked Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve and Australia Day.

But to lose that amount, they would have to work standard eight-hour shifts on each of the four summer holidays.

Labor industrial relations spokesman Tony Burke said millions of Australians were vulnerable to the government’s “nasty” reforms.

“This pay cut is Scott Morrison’s thanks to the people who got us through the pandemic – the frontline and essential workers who put themselves at risk by showing up to work and steering Australia through the crisis,” he said.

“If you abolish something called the Better Off Overall Test, guess what will happen: workers will be worse off.”

Mr Burke said banking, finance, or insurance industry workers could lose $1170 over the Christmas period.

He claimed a typical aged care worker could lose $1080, a fast food worker $908, and a registered nurse $890.

Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter has dismissed previous attacks by Labor as “desperation”.

He denied the reforms would lead to worker pay cuts during parliamentary Question Time in December.

The government’s industrial relations omnibus bill also includes a bid to alter the Better Off Overall Test (BOOT), which requires workers be better off in workplace agreements.

The Coalition argues the enterprise bargaining system had become bogged down, saying the reforms would salvage negotiations by increasing flexibility.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in November the reforms were a “genuine attempt to fix practical problems” in enterprise bargaining.

New Treasury figures also revealed on Wednesday households and businesses have amassed $200b in savings.

Mr Burke said an economic recovery required Australians to have confidence and money in hand.

The government will end its Jobkeeper program in March, encouraged by better-than-expected figures in the September quarter.

The Treasury modelling showed the benefits of the government’s economic lifeline would last beyond the end of temporary measures.

Mr Burke accused the Coalition of hypocrisy, saying they were using the pandemic as cover to slash Australian wages.

“The government says the economy is doing well enough that businesses no longer need JobKeeper. But then they say the economy is doing so badly they need to cut the pay of workers. They can’t have it both ways,” he said.

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