Unions put pressure on Cathy McGowan in final chance to save workers’ penalty rates

KEY PLAYERS: MPs Cathy McGowan and Bob Katter have been put under pressure to use their parliamentary vote to support Labor and the unions' battle to overturn the Fair Work Commission decision on penalty rates.
KEY PLAYERS: MPs Cathy McGowan and Bob Katter have been put under pressure to use their parliamentary vote to support Labor and the unions' battle to overturn the Fair Work Commission decision on penalty rates.

Cathy McGowan is not willing to bow to pressure to join a campaign fighting to save workers’ rights to Sunday penalty rates.

The Fair Work Commission announced last month that penalty rates for workers in the hospitality, fast food, retail and pharmacy sectors would be cut.

Labor’s bill in the Senate to block the decision passed 37-26 on Thursday with the support of cross-bench senators, but was unlikely to pass a House of Representatives, which had a narrow Coalition majority.

Unions have mounted a campaign for lower house independent and minor party MPs to support Labor in the vote.

After getting Bob Katter on board this week, they turned their attention to Ms McGowan and union members bombarded the Indi MP with messages on social media and pressure in television advertisements.

But she told The Border Mail the issue of penalty rates was a matter for the FWC, backing the cuts to workers’ pay.

“I am inclined to support the independent umpire,” Ms McGowan said.

“In the meantime, I have been consulting regularly with unions and employers.

“Comments from the people in Indi are welcome – I am interested in all points of view.”

She will vote to bring the legislation on for debate when it is brought before the house.

Ms McGowan and other independents’ potential votes were thrown into the spotlight this week after Senator Derryn Hinch and One Nation and Nick Xenophon Team senators backflipped to support Labor in its attempt to block the penalty rate cuts.

The Indi MP also left herself open to changing her mind by calling for others’ points of view.

Farrer’s Sussan Ley also backed the Coalition’s decision to support the FWC, saying it would help small businesses.

“This decision, made by an independent umpire and not by government, has been totally distorted by Labor and their political posturing is completely off the chart,” she said.

“The Fair Work Commission’s rates ruling for Sunday impacts around 3 to 4 per cent of Australia’s entire workforce, some four out of 122 awards. The small businesses I represent have been crying out for these changes.

“For example, a family owned takeaway on a Sunday has to pay $8 an hour more than McDonald’s, casual workers in hospitality are not affected at all, and public holiday rates remain at either 250 per cent or 225 per cent after the changes.”

This story Final chance to save workers’ penalty rates first appeared on The Border Mail.

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