Illawarra Federal Labor, today, met with South Coast Labour Council representatives to discuss ways that workers and small businesses can get a better deal across the region.

We believe it is more important to see workers get a pay rise than Australia’s biggest companies receive an $65 billion tax cut.  

Workers pay has gone backwards and penalty rates have been cut under the Turnbull and Abbott Governments. 700,000 Australians in the retail, hospitality, fast food and pharmacy sector, including 11,200 food, retail and accommodation workers in Cunningham; 12,300 food, retail and accommodation workers in Whitlam; and 11,900 in Gilmore.

One in five workers across the Whitlam and Gilmore electorates and one in six across Cunningham will be worse off because of this decision.

Under the Turnbull Government, wages in Australia have hit record lows.  Cuts to penalty rates, insecure work and an undermining of collective bargaining means more and more families across the region face uncertainty at work.

Labor will always stand up for workers and ensure they get a fair deal.

A Shorten Labor Government will restore weekend penalty rates for workers affected by the pay cuts and introduce changes to ensure workers get a fairer deal in the workplace.

As an opposition, Labor has fought on behalf of workers to stop cuts to penalty rates from occurring.  As a government, Labor would reverse these pay cuts – and make sure it can’t happen again.

Labor has also committed to ensure that collective bargaining is not undermined by sham agreements.  A complicit Turnbull Government has not acted to stop the increasing corporate gaming of our industrial relations laws.

Currently, some employers are getting away with using a small cohort of employees to vote up inferior enterprise agreements, which are then used to reduce the pay and conditions of other much larger and often very different workforces.  Labor believes that collective bargaining should not be able to be undermined by these sham collective agreements, often referred to as no-stake agreements.

Labor will legislate to make clear that the workers who vote on an agreement must be broadly representative of the workers who may ultimately be covered by the agreement.  It will no longer be possible to specify that an agreement signed up to by workers in one place covers people employed in very different locations.  It will no longer be possible to have short-term casual workers reach agreement on terms that bind permanent workers.

Labor will also change the law so that workers and their unions can apply to the Fair Work Commission to re-negotiate sham enterprise agreements.

This announcement builds on a long list of Labor policies to improve our industrial relations laws including preventing employers from choosing the nuclear option of terminating agreements; preventing employers forcing their workers into sham contracting arrangements; combatting phoenixing; implementing a national labour hire licensing scheme; and introducing an objective definition of “casual work”.

Australians deserve a government that understands the challenges in Australia’s labour market and workplaces and puts people’s wellbeing above corporate profits.

Labor will continue to fight for a better, fairer deal for workers across the Illawarra region.