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Weekend penalty rates 'not a luxury', says Shorten

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Labor will fight the Turnbull government all the way on weekend penalty rates, saying thousands of families rely on them to make ends meet.

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Making its submission to the Fair Work Commission’s review of penalty rates on Monday, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said penalty rates continued to be a fundamental part of a strong safety net for Australian workers.

They enabled those in low income and highly casualised industries to share in the nation’s economic prosperity, he said.

In a review of the workplace relations framework last year, the Productivity Commission recommended that higher Sunday penalty rates should end.

Shorten said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has declared the death of the weekend and has argued for a reduction in Sunday penalty rates, calling them an “historic anomaly”.

“Weekend penalty rates are not a luxury, they are what pays the bills and puts food on the table,” Shorten told AAP.

Hospitality workers are in the bottom 30 per cent of Australian income earners, while retail has the largest proportion of low paid workers.

Shorten also noted that women made up a disproportionate share of workers in both the retail and hospitality sectors, accounting for 55 per cent of all those employed.

“By increasing disposable income, penalty rates help to increase the competitiveness of the national economy and help to reduce inequality and the gender pay gap across the Australian community,” the Labor leader said.

AAP

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