Cowin, who was responding to a question about the Fair Work Commission’s decision to reduce Sunday and public holiday penalty rates at CCI’s Lighthouse Leadership event on May 18, said Australia was now living a seven day week lifestyle.
“I think society has changed and we have to somehow adapt to it,” he said.
He suggested dropping penalty rates and keeping wages higher overall would solve the problem.
“The real big picture is how do we keep wage levels as high as we can, how do we try and have a common wage for everyone rather than depending on what day of the week you’re going to work,” he said.
“The reality is people can work this out.”
Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Western Australia Chief Executive Officer Deidre Willmott said the penalty rates system was out of touch with society and damaging to small business owners.
“Western Australia is home to a vibrant, modern economy, where people work, shop and enjoy time with their families every day of the week,” she said.
“The archaic penalty rates system, which demands exorbitant rates be paid on Sundays and Public Holidays, is both out-of-step with community expectations and damaging to WA small businesses – particularly in our retail, hospitality and tourism industries.
“Imagine you run a pub in the South West and it’s a busy long weekend – as a business owner, penalty rates dictate that casual wait and bar staff must be paid more than $50 per hour on a public holiday.
“Clearly this is unsustainable for business owners trying to make ends meet – if a business cannot afford these excessive Sunday and Public Holiday rates, owners are forced to shut their doors or work in the business themselves instead of hiring staff.
“This is bad for workers who want to earn, bad for employers who want to provide a quality service and bad for customers who want to shop or enjoy a meal.”
“It is critical that the Fair Work Commission’s decision to adjust Sunday and Public Holiday rates is implemented as soon as possible, to help small businesses grow, create jobs and offer more hours to West Australian workers.”
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