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The union representing hospitality workers has urged the Fair Work Commission to exercise caution when considering proposed changes to the Restaurant Industry Award.

Amidst cries from hospitality employers who say they’re struggling to find staff, the United Workers Union (UWU) is warning that any cuts to take home pay would be an act of self-harm to the industry.

In a submission to the Fair Work Commission lodged today, UWU has made clear that no worker should be left worse-off, and that, in the pursuit of fairness, workers must be properly consulted on changes before and after they are implemented.

The submission was made in response to a process initiated by former Attorney General Christian Porter to modify some awards.

In response, UWU members met throughout the process as the proposals took shape, and after the commission expressed its “provisional support” for the changes.

UWU members have suggested that if FWC decides to bring in these changes, a range of additional safeguards must be adopted including:

  • A limited 12 month trial
  • A review starting 9 months after commencement
  • A monitoring committee made up of Union and industry representatives
  • Enhanced powers for FWC to resolve disputes

UWU Director Ben Redford said that the union had consistently opposed any measure which would mean workers covered by the award would suffer detriment or be worse off than they are under the current provisions and would continue to do so.

“Reductions in take home pay would not assist this industry to continue to recover from the economic effect of the pandemic – in fact, any such measure would be counter-productive, and contribute to the specific challenge facing the industry at present – attracting and retaining staff,” Redford said.

“The hospitality industry is screaming for workers right now. We need to improve the quality and security of hospitality jobs, not reduce them.”

“Any changes should also be closely monitored over a 12 month period and workers should be included in this review process through a committee.”

UWU’s submission was accompanied by a report prepared by Associate Professor Angela Knox from University of Sydney.

In her report, Associate Professor Angela Knox concludes that negative changes to hospitality jobs would worsen the current issues of recruitment and retention.

“Further degradation of wages and/or career progression opportunities is likely to heighten recruitment and retention problems and exacerbate labour shortages, proving counterproductive for hospitality businesses,” the report states.

“Research evidence indicates that a reduction in penalty rates, including via ‘loaded rates’, is likely to compound the industry’s poor-quality jobs by reducing wages among some of the countries lowest paid workers.”