ACTU President discusses penalty rates with airport cleaners

As the war over penalty rates rages on, the importance of the higher rates of pay was the main topic when the ACTU President met with workers at Brisbane Airport recently.

Ged Kearney made the stop in Brisbane as part of a national tour where she met with workers from various industries to speak to them about their main concerns regarding workers rights and entitlements. A number of cleaners were part of the United Voice group that met with Ms Kearney at the airport. Adam Scott, night shift manager with Spotless Cleaning spoke of the importance of penalty rates and said removing them or reducing them would be devastating for every shift worker. He said “We get loading for working from 10pm to 6am. These hours are a major inconvenience socially, penalty rates make up a little bit for this. Therefore this is an important fight for so many people and it’s definitely a fight worth having.”

The meeting came as it was revealed that the government’s submission to the Fair Work Commission’s review into the award system was nothing more than a scathing attack on penalty rates. The Coalition has encouraged the Commission to carefully consider the "softening economic environment and labour market…. in particular, the Commission should consider the impact of employment costs on employers' decision to hire workers over the next four years"  It’s clear that once again Tony Abbott and his government will take the side of big business over the ordinary Australian worker. While Ms Kearney promised workers that she would fight this government in the war against penalty rates.

The threat to Medicare was also discussed at the airport meeting with one member outlining just how much he relies on the benefit. Peter Harper said “My wife has a lot of different things wrong with her. She has high blood pressure, heart problems and asthma. My kids also have asthma. If we didn’t have Medicare and penalty rates, I’d go under. We’d all be living on the streets.” Following the meeting, all workers agreed that it was worthwhile and a positive experience. Mr Harper said “I felt on top of the world after talking to Ged Kearney because I really feel like she listened to all our concerns and she will fight to make sure Medicare and penalty rates are not ripped away from us.”

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