Friday, July 6, 2018

Today by Paddy Manning

Club test: penalty rates
Cashed-up pokies barns can afford to pay workers properly

It’s the kind of unfairness that Labor great Jenny Macklin, who announced her retirement today, would care about deeply. This week Clubs Australia, the pokies-driven, cashed-up lobby group representing licensed clubs, has been arguing in the Fair Work Commission that its members should be able to cut their employees’ penalty rates by 10 per cent, just as pubs were able to do on July 1. According to union United Voice, the clubs turn over $12 billion a year, and benefit from volunteer work worth $590 million, yet they want to move an estimated 42,000 affected employees over to a modified hospitality award that could see them lose between $70 and $100 a week. It’s the equivalent of giving a town like Dubbo a pay cut. Surprisingly, quite a few clubs have sided with the union and rejected the move outright, insisting they won’t cut penalty rates. One, the St George Leagues Club, has made a submission arguing in favour of the shift.

According to United Voice, clubs pay lower income and gaming taxes, and generally make twice as much money as pubs from poker machines. During evidence in the commission this week, it emerged that Clubs Australia had made no attempt to consult club members about its decision to apply to cut penalty rates, and is courting the possibility that clubs could be lumped in entirely with the hospitality award.

Randwick Labor Club opposes the move. One employee, 68-year-old Deanna Kelly told Channel 10 news last night: “I need that money to live, like every other ordinary Aussie.” Kelly has worked in clubs for 20 years, and says if the award is cut she will apply for the full pension. She works in the gaming room and asks, “Why should they cut our rates when they get heaps of money?”

St George Leagues Club is an enormous bunker, with a grandiose entrance and incongruous palm trees straight off the Hotel California album cover. The not-for-profit club employs 172 workers and cleared $33 million from poker machines in 2017. This week the club’s human resources manager, Lisa Petrie, told the commission that this was down $3 million on the previous year. “People are not coming into the club as much as they used to. Spends are different. [There’s] generally just not as much patronage.” Petrie confirmed that the club wanted to “increase the casual side of our workforce and decrease the permanent side of our workforce so as to gain flexibility”.

The workers themselves were too busy or refused to talk. Apparently management briefed staff this week on the situation, and denied that penalty rates were changing. The few punters I spoke to at the club at lunchtime today opposed cuts to penalty rates. “It’s terrible,” said one longstanding member, especially given that the club stays open till 4am and makes heavy use of shift workers. “As if they aren’t making enough money”.

Tara Moriarty, secretary of the liquor and hospitality division of United Voice in NSW, says the union has about 40 clubs supporting its campaign against Clubs Australia’s application to the Fair Work Commission. She says most clubs are too scared to make submissions in support of Clubs Australia, with St George Leagues Club being an exception. Moriarty says clubs have a completely different business model to pubs, as not-for profit organisations that are meant to give back to the community and receive generous tax concessions. “As community organisations, they should not be cutting the wages of staff.”

since this morning

Tributes are pouring in for long-serving Labor MP Jenny Macklin, who today announced she would retire from parliament at the next federal election. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten described her as a “legend” who “changed the country in her quiet way”.

Fairfax Media reports that family size would be taken into account when calculating school funding under a radical plan to use parents’ income to determine a school’s wealth for the first time.

The Guardian reports that the Australian embassy in the US has retracted a campaign of “mateship” designed to highlight friendship between the two countries after 15 “patrons” it chose were all male and white. The ambassador, Joe Hockey, has apologised and agreed that it “should be fixed”.

in case you missed it

In The Conversation, Michelle Grattan writes that dividing up the GST between the states is “a fraught task because reslicing the pie means some get a smaller portion. That is, unless you throw in extra flour, to make the bake bigger.” Meanwhile, in the SMH, Matt Wade writes that NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet has vowed to keep fighting for a simpler GST distribution system that allocates the tax on the basis of population size.

Defence chief Mark Binskin says Beijing’s broken promise not to militarise the South China Sea means it has squandered the trust of its neighbours and undermined its aspirations to regional leadership.

Police were called after an ugly confrontation broke out at a Brisbane mosque between self-declared activist Logan Robertson, claiming to be from the Pillar Baptist Church at Ipswich, and Ali Kadri from the Islamic Council of Queensland, who called the activists “white ISIS”.

by Miriam Cosic
‘Colony’ at NGV Australia
Twin exhibitions explore the very different experiences of settlement for European and Indigenous peoples

by Russell Marks
Held to account
Why is the cost of banking in remote communities so high?

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is also the author of three books, including a recently updated unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


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