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Tag Archives: Restaurant and Catering Australia

May 3, 2012

grfdeChef Michael Bacash in his South Yarra restaurant: ”Why is the work you do on a Sunday so much more expensive than the work you do on a Wednesday?” Photo: Angela Wylie

RESTAURANT owners and caterers have launched a bid with the workplace umpire to effectively cut weekend penalty rates for hospitality staff.

Restaurant and Catering Australia represents 7000 hospitality businesses around the country, and says penalties are crippling the industry and bankrupting many restaurants.

But the union representing the sector argues the bid is an attempt to impose ”poverty” wages on already low-paid workers.

Current laws require restaurant owners to pay permanent staff time-and-a-quarter on Saturdays and time-and-a-half on Sundays. Restaurant and Catering Australia has made an application to change the Restaurant Industry Award.

It wants penalty rates paid to restaurant workers only if they have already worked five consecutive days. A sixth day of work would be paid at time-and-a-quarter, and a seventh time-and-a-half.

Casuals, who make up more than half of the employees in hospitality and work more on weekends, would still get 25 per cent extra on all seven days.

The group’s submission is part of a wider review of awards being undertaken by Fair Work Australia. Restaurant and Catering Australia chief executive John Hart said penalty rates were shutting down restaurants.

Among 16 businesses to sign up to the application is Matteo Pignatelli, who runs North Fitzroy’s Matteo’s. ”We don’t want them to abolish penalty rates, that’s not our agenda at all,” he said. But he said it had become increasingly tough in the industry.

Michael Bacash, who runs a South Yarra seafood restaurant and has not signed up to the application, said there should be recognition that weekend work had changed. ”Nobody is suggesting people should get underpaid, but why is the work you do on a Sunday so much more expensive than the work you do on a Wednesday?”

But Louise Tarrant, national secretary of union United Voice, said businesses could not be viable ”off the back of poverty wages”. She said penalty rates had been in place for decades in Australia for the sector, and should remain.

”Reliable and professional staff can’t come at minimum wages in a sector that has unsociable hours and physically demanding jobs,” she said.

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