Weekend penalty rates ‘unfair’

The Australian, September 30, 2016:

Chris Papagianis says workplace laws requiring him to pay Sunday shift workers double the hourly rate of what they would earn Monday to Friday are “crippling”.

“I just think it’s crazy,’’ says Mr Papagianis, who employs between 15 and 19 people at his cafe and milk bar in the southeastern Melbourne suburb of Glen Iris.

“They don’t work twice as hard so why should they get twice the pay? (Sunday) is not unsociable at all. It’s often the only time they can work.”

Mr Papagianis, who has run the seven-day-a week small business for 28 years, is a long-time critic of the Fair Work Act, and does not support workers getting paid any penalty rates.

He says the proposal by Fair Work Commission president Iain Ross to allow employees to trade off penalties and overtime for a higher base rate could have merit.

“I would prefer an hourly rate definitely, as long as it’s not exorb­itant,’’ he says. “(But) what will happen is most of the people I need for Saturday and Sunday will say: ‘Bugger that, I am going to go down and enjoy myself this weekend. I am only going to work Monday to Friday if I am going to get the same amount.’ ’’

Mr Papagianis has sought to tackle the complexities of an award system he calls an “administrative nightmare”. He uses computer software to calculate pay rates applying to different staff of varying ages. He has also employed a payroll specialist.

He found that staff regularly volunteered to work Saturdays and Sunday shifts that paid penalty rates but were less available on weekdays.

“I used to employ a single mother who had to put her child through daycare from Monday to Friday,’’ he says. “She was earning $22 an hour at the time.

“This was a person who was only getting $22 an hour, and some 18-year-old twit on the weekend was getting $40 an hour and he was blowing it on alcohol anyway. It’s just unfair.’’