Weekend penalty rate stoush gets started

UNIONS are shaping up for a fight over weekend penalty rates in the hospitality sector, with plans to lodge an appeal against a Fair Work Commission decision on loading for some workers.

The push, United Voice acting national secretary David O'Byrne said, was a reaction to an "all-out attack" on wages and conditions for low-paid workers across the country.

His comments came after the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Kate Carnell told The Australian the business sector was preparing for a campaign.

The business sector argues that penalty rates are causing some businesses to limit their weekend opening hours, and the rates are eating in to operating costs.

This position was echoed in the government's submission to the annual wage review.

In submissions from hospitality, retail and other businesses that operate on weekends, those sectors have also argued rising penalty rates were contributing to youth unemployment and preventing businesses putting on more staff.

While Mr O'Byrne said the wage review was a different issue, he said the union would appeal the FWC decision to limit penalty rate loadings to 25% for introductory hospitality workers on Sundays.

He said the push by the business community was "not just a thought bubble but a long-running campaign to reduce penalty rates".

"The 2007 election result was clear in what kind of country we wanted, for all workers to be compensated for working weekends, time that should be spent with family," Mr O'Byrne said.

"This is a blatant attempt by big business to Americanise our labour system and using youth unemployment to blackmail people is just an attempt to achieve low wages for workers.

"The recent decision by the FWC in restaurant and catering penalty rates acknowledged that Sundays are for families, but they bizarrely reduced the compensation for working those hours."

The union planned to file an appeal against the recent FWC decision in the next two days, as the commission also prepares to release a final decision on its annual wage review in coming weeks.

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