Please don't cut penalty rates. It's the only way I can feed my kids and pay my bills

By United Voice hospitality member, Mary O'Connor

This post originally appeared on the Guardian on 2 April 2015

I’m grieving the loss of the Australia I used to know, as various employer groups and politicians again attempt to make the case for a more “flexible” workplace relations system with more “competitive wages”. What happened to the land of the fair go – the Australia where there weren’t so much haves and have nots, but rather haves and haves-a-bit-less?


Change is inevitable, I know, but change for the worse is terrible. While China and other countries are pulling their people out of poverty, our current leaders seem intent on grinding ours into it.

Wistfully I’m remembering an Australia where people were paid an honest rate for an honest job. Where penalty rates for working weekends, nights or holidays were seen as the fair and decent thing and where no one would have had the temerity to call penalty rates “obscene” and to expose themselves as the greedy buggers they are.

I know a bit about working weekends and relying on penalty rates to support my family. I work in catering in an aged care facility. It’s unglamorous but essential work. And while our prime minister might suggest that “if you don’t want to work on a weekend, fair enough don’t work on a weekend,” I think the elderly people we care for deserve good meals every day of the week and that means I work weekends.


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Unions are shaping up for the biggest fight in a generation


This piece originally appeared on SBS News on March 4 2015 

Tony Abbott might not realise it, but the war on penalty rates being waged by employers – and signed up to by his Government – is shaping up to be one of the defining battles of our time.

Today’s National Day of Action is the largest nationwide IR protest to take place since WorkChoices.  And the issue motivating most the hundreds of thousands to march today is penalty rates.

Belatedly, Abbott government ministers have realised they might be playing with fire, and last week tried to calm fears about their agenda. But nobody is buying it.  

Why? Because the war on penalty rates has already begun. Abbott’s Fair Work Amendment Bill allows penalty rates to be traded away. His friends in business are attacking penalty rates through the Fair Work Commission’s Award review process. And his Productivity Commission inquiry is laying the ground for an even more sweeping attack.

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Join the United Voice Leadership Program

The United Voice Leadership Program provides union delegates, leaders and activists with specialist training in a range of areas, including enforcing your union agreement, union-building and representation. Dates for 2015 are now available, so click below to find out how you can improve your skills and help organise your workplace and community.

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"I now feel more comfortable and confident about representing members with their issues - and talking to non-members about why they need to join the union. We need to build a bigger, stronger union, so we can make sure we always get treated with fairness and respect."
Alex Petrevski, Delegate and program graduate


The pineapples are safe (for now)!

Fantastic news: yesterday Tony Abbott officially walked away from proposed changes to the GST.

Only a few weeks after members of his own party openly came out campaigning for the GST to be extended to fresh fruit and veggies, Tony Abbott was forced to walk away from any changes to the tax without bi-partisan consensus. Given Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said he "wouldn’t support widening the GST under any circumstances", it looks like that consensus will be hard to come by.


Union member and Early Childhood Educator, Kylie Grey, and her family protest the Government's rotten tax ideas

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Wilson guards ready to light the fuse

Yesterday, Security leaders from across the state came together to plan how to protect their Safeguard Standard and secure a fair new Agreement. During the meeting, our leaders decided enough was enough and formally endorsed registering for industrial action.

Are you a Wilson guard? Register now for industrial action or read the full update.


Security guards defeat sub-standard agreement

United Voice members at Wilson Security have dealt management a crippling blow after the company tried to force a wage and condition cutting non-union agreement on the workforce. 

Members and delegates across the state intensively organised their co-workers to a deliver whopping 85% no vote when Wilson tried to push the agreement to a ballot. 


Show of strength for CBD cleaners

This year, for the first time ever, office cleaners in Melbourne's CBD took industrial action. Cleaners at Consolidated Property Services overcame the traditional challenges of organising strike action over multiple small sites by coordinating with their co-workers to arrange multi-stage walk off's and job bans which, combined, have forced Consolidated management to listen to their demands.


The truth about ambulance response times exposed

More than 87,000 Victorians waited too long for an emergency ambulance last year, official figures obtained by the paramedics union reveal.

Only 71.6% of emergency calls were reached on time across the state. The government’s benchmark is for all ambulances to reach Code One patients within 15 minutes 85% of the time. Within high density population areas the target is a 15 minute response 90% of the time.


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Paramedics rally for poster girl Louise

However it played out, the last week was going to be a big one for six year paramedic Louise Creasey. In the middle of studying for her final midwifery exams, and with a netball semi-final looming for her team, the Airport Saints, ambulance management summoned Louise to a disciplinary meeting. 


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Paramedics welcome policy to end the crisis

Paramedics today welcomed the long overdue recognition that they had a key role to play in solving the ambulance crisis.

The creation of an Ambulance Performance and Policy Consultative Committee, as promised by the State Opposition, would give working paramedics a voice in improving emergency response times and saving lives.



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