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Are penalty rates at risk under Abbott?

May 1, 2013News

Unions have demanded Opposition leader Tony Abbott outline his policy on penalty rates after he recently told a community forum that the rates were killing jobs in some industries.

Speaking in South Australia, Tony Abbott stopped short of saying he’d scrap the rates altogether, instead suggesting that he would support companies looking to go through the Fair Work Commission.

“First of all… workers pay and conditions are safe under the coalition,” Mr Abbott said.

“And second … we trust to the processes of the independent umpire to try to ensure that wages and conditions are properly set in a way that will maximise employment.

“That’s the way it is, that’s the way it should be, that’s the way it will be under us.”

Mr Abbott’s comments have raised serious concern among the government and unions.

ACTU president Ged Kearney said the coalition needed to be honest with workers about what it would do to penalty rates if elected.

“It is a huge concern for workers that Mr Abbott appears to be backing the big employer groups and their war on penalty rates,” she said.

“Removing penalty rates would be a pay cut for 500,000 workers.

“Working late night or weekends is still a sacrifice for workers, particularly those with families and penalty rates must remain to reflect this.

Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten said Mr Abbott had indicated “he could pressure the independent umpire to strip back penalty rates if in government”

“Tony Abbott must immediately rule out ever supporting employer claims to reduce penalty rates or undermine the pay and conditions of Australian workers,” he said.