MS TIERNEY (Minister for Training and Skills) — Today is International Women’s Day. How distressing that we should be contemplating the impact of the Fair Work Commission’s decision to cut weekend and public holiday penalty rates in industries that have a high proportion of women. Many women in my electorate work weekends in hospitality, retail, pharmacy, fast food and tourism. Some are young — often students working to earn an income while they study — some are older women with young children who have minders only on weekends and some are women who need to earn higher pay rates to support their family. Weekend shifts are common for people working part time or in casual jobs, and we know that women are much more likely to work part time than men.
The Warrnambool Standard quotes the chief executive of women’s health and wellbeing at Barwon South West, Emily Lee-Ack, who said that almost 50 per cent of women living in the Great South Coast region already earn below the minimum wage. She expects that cuts in penalty rates will add to the widening gender pay gap. Rural students living a long way from home and attending university or TAFE also work on weekends to pay for rent, fees and car expenses. La Trobe Bendigo student Kate Norton expects to lose $300 a week. She said coffees will not get any cheaper on Sundays, but young people will find it harder to pay the rent.
These penalty rate cuts will hit women hard, as there is a disproportionate number of women working in these areas.
Mr Finn interjected.
Ms TIERNEY — The commonwealth has significant responsibilities to support female workers — not to make it harder, which is exactly what these penalty cuts will do, Mr Finn.