Unions hit street to defend Ipswich workers' penalty rates

WHAT was touted as a solution to the unemployment problem behind closed doors was met with anger by the people out on the street.

A Productivity Commission recommendation to cut weekend penalty rates for hospitality and retail workers may promote increased business activity, but workers say it comes at the cost of destroying the financial lifeline that many Ipswich families rely on.

A gathering of around 50 representatives of the Queensland Council of Unions and Australian Council of Trade Unions rallied outside a Productivity Commission hearing at the Metro Hotel yesterday.

Their message was simple; an attack on penalty rates would have the same effect on Malcolm Turnbull's political career as Work Choices had on John Howard's.

QCU president John Battams said 24,000 Ipswich workers relied on Sunday penalty rates to make ends meet.

"These people are at work while everybody else is not so that they can afford to put food on the table," Mr Battams said.

"We want to make sure they get a fair day's pay for a fair day's work."

Sports club worker Samarah Wilson recently found out what it means to lose penalty rates.

After working as a bar and gaming assistant for 18m to put herself through university, she was suddenly told that casual jobs would be outsourced and penalty rates removed.

"Signing the agreement would have resulted in me losing $5000 a year," she said.

"It was a case of signing the agreement or losing my job, so I lost my job."

The episode has turned a non-union supporter into a young woman on a mission.

"I'm now more concerned about the future and what this could do to thousands of Australians," she said.

Federal Member for Blair Shayne Neumann and State Member for Ipswich Jennifer Howard both showed their support for Ipswich workers who stand to be affected by changes to penalty rates.

Mr Neumann said the Productivity Commission appeared to be more focussed on increasing the profits of big business over creating employment.

"It's Work Choices Mach II," he said.

Topics:  employment jobs penalty rates productivity commission

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