Workers in WA are missing out on public holiday penalty rates, union officials say. (ABC Radio Perth: Emma Wynne)
A push is underway for two more public holidays to be added to Western Australia’s official calendar, with a key union claiming the state’s workers are being “dudded”.
The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA) will use Labor’s state conference this weekend to promote changes to party policy, in a bid to have Easter Saturday and Easter Sunday gazetted as public holidays.
WA currently has 10 official public holidays a year — the lowest of any state or territory.
In comparison, Victoria has 13 days — including Easter Saturday and Easter Sunday, Melbourne Cup Day and, more recently, AFL Grand Final Friday.
“We are really lagging behind every other state and territory,” SDA state secretary Peter O’Keeffe said.
“I can see no reason why workers in Western Australia should be dudded in terms of the number of public holidays they get.”
Peter O’Keeffe says businesses would have to absorb the extra costs of the public holidays. (ABC News: : Manny Tesconi)
Mr O’Keeffe said it was perverse that New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland recognised Easter Saturday and Easter Sunday as public holidays, but WA did not.
Good Friday and Easter Monday are recognised in WA, because they are among seven national public holidays.
Mr O’Keeffe said it was a serious issue for workers because they missed out on public holiday penalty rates — which in some industries, could amount to double time and a half (250 per cent).
The Fair Work Commission recently reduced public holiday award rates for retail and hospitality employees from 250 to 225 per cent.
Business would be unhappy about any change but would ultimately have to absorb the additional costs, Mr O’Keeffe said.
“The first step for us as a Labor Party affiliate is to get it made part of the platform and then we’ll work on having it implemented over the coming years,” he said.
“It is more likely I think that a Labor Government will recognise that this is something that’s important to workers and they are more likely to prioritise something like that, than the other side.”
Plan ‘very bad for jobs’: CCI
The state’s business lobby reacted with alarm at the prospect of two more public holidays being gazetted in WA.
Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) chief executive Deidre Willmott said it would force many businesses to close.
Deidre Willmott says small businesses would find it very hard to open at Easter. (ABC News: Andrew O’Connor)
“We would certainly encourage the Labor Party state conference to oppose this suggestion,” she said.
“Labor was elected to Government this year on a platform of jobs, and this proposal would be very bad for jobs, very bad for business, and ultimately very bad for our economy.
“This has not been good for the Victorian economy and it would be especially bad for the Western Australian economy right at this time.”
Ms Willmott said the proposal would create four public holidays in a row and would make it “very difficult” for small businesses to open across Easter.
“What our members have consistently told us is that when faced with high penalty rates on public holidays, they often choose to close their businesses,” she said.