Proposed legislation to protect weekend penalty rates has passed the Senate and will now go to the House of Representatives, putting pressure on the Turnbull government on the issue.
The bill was introduced by Labour and co-sponsored by the Greens and the Tasmanian independent, Jackie Lambie.
It ensures modern awards can't be varied to cut penalty rates or the hours to which penalty rates apply if the change results in a reduction to a worker's take-home pay.
The move comes in response to the February decision of the Fair Work Commission to cut Sunday penalty rates for workers in the retail and hospitality industries by varying the modern awards that set their (minimum) conditions.
That decision has been deeply unpopular with the community and is regarded as one of the factors that contributed to the thrashing the electorate gave to the Coalition state government in the recent Western Australian election.
That unpopularity also explains why several former supporters of the cuts in the Senate – the Nick Zenophon Team, One Nation and independent, Derryn Hinch, changed their minds and voted for the bill.
ACTU President Ged Kearney says that the cross-bench must now do the right thing in the Lower House and support the proposed legislation.
“Without a government which is willing to stand up for working people, we need the crossbench and opposition in both houses to stand together to protect low paid workers in this country,” she said.