Working people in Tasmania should be very concerned about the future of penalty rates and loadings under the Howard Governments proposed changes to the industrial relations system, given Special Minister of State Eric Abetzs previous statements.

LHMU Tasmania Branch Secretary David O’Byrne today highlighted the threat to penalty rates and loadings found in a speech made by then Senate candidate Eric Abetz in 1992 to the right wing ideological think tank – the HR Nicholls Society.

In that speech the Liberal politician particularly targets working people in the tourism and hospitality industry.

Decade-old campaign against penalty rates and loadings

“Eric Abetz clearly had penalty rates and leave loadings in his sights in 1992. There is no evidence to believe anything has changed,” David O’Byrne said.

“Penalty rates are a way of compensating people for working unsociable or unpopular hours or at times when most of the community is not working – such as one weekends and public holidays. They are a payment for working when the majority of the community is not.

“They remain a valid and justifiable feature of our wages system.

Vitriolic attack on wage rights

” But Senator Abetz used his vitriolic H.R. Nicholls Society speech to label leave loadings and penalty rates as ‘outrageous’ and ‘monstrous’.

” Eric Abetz’s 1992 speech reveals a singular lack of understanding of the importance of and justification for penalty rates to real working people,” David O’Byrne said.

Real threat to pay packets

” Under the proposed changes penalty rates and loadings will be under real threat – given the five minimum conditions that the Government will establish as the floor for enterprise bargaining.

“Eric Abetz’s 1992 speech to the right wing ideological HR Nicholls society is a chilling document that includes endorsement of deceptive and deliberately misleading ‘ political speak’.

“It is a shameful exercise in political hubris.”

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