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Greens will legislate to protect penalty rates, Labor should too

Greens Industrial Relations spokesperson Adam Bandt MP today joined Greens candidate for Grayndler Jim Casey to announce that the Greens will legislate to protect penalty rates. The Fair Work Commission is expected to make a decision about whether to cut Sunday penalty rates for retail and hospitality workers in the coming months.

Mr Bandt and Mr Casey called on Labor to back the Greens' move, urging Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to reconsider his position. Despite unions calling for weekend rates to be protected by legislation, Bill Shorten has only said he would write a letter to the Fair Work Commission should it rule to cut penalty rates. Mr Shorten has previously committed Labor to joining the government in accepting the commission's ruling. The announcement in Grayndler, where Labor's Anthony Albanese is attempting to hold off the Greens' Jim Casey, highlights Labor's propensity to vote with the Liberals on key issues.

"The Greens are the only party that will protect weekend rates of pay," Mr Bandt said.

"Weekend rates are an integral part of people's rights at work, with thousands of Australians depending on weekend rates to make ends meet."

"Young people in particular depend on weekend rates to support themselves while they study. Young people are already facing unaffordable housing, insecure work and low levels of student assistance, so cutting weekend rates would place them under immense pressure."

"It is time that people have certainty about the future of their weekend rates. It is time to ensure people's weekend rates are protected by law."  

"Should the Fair Work Commission choose to cut penalty rates this June, Bill Shorten has shamefully said that Labor will accept its decision."

"Labor's claim that enshrining penalty rates in legislation would open the door to conservative changes is a furphy. On Labor's logic, we shouldn't have legislation specifying four weeks of annual leave in case the Liberals later cut it down to three."

"We're not proposing to legislate every hourly rate of pay in every industry. Our bill would set a strong legal minimum and then let the Commission do its work independently but on the proviso that pay rates wouldn't go backwards.

"Labor is just making excuses. This is everything that is wrong with the Labor Party. They talk tough on protecting weekend rates, but will not do anything to protect weekend rates should they be cut."

"The Greens will legislate to protect weekend rates for the hundreds of thousands of Australians who depend on them."

Jim Casey is the Greens candidate for Grayndler and head of the NSW branch of the Fire Brigades Employees' Union.

"The Greens will hold Labor to account to make sure they live up to their rhetoric about protecting people's rights at work," Mr Casey said.

"Labor cannot remain silent on this. I call on the Labor candidate for Grayndler to tell the people of Marrickville where he stands when they lose their weekend rates."

"As a union leader I understand how important it is to compensate people who work Christmas Day, News Eve, nights and weekends. These are times most of us are spending with our families and friends and we recognize those times as deeply valuable."

"At least one-third of people who live in Marrickville are either working part-time or unemployed, but they are still expected to pay on average $720 a week for a house or $515 a week if renting an apartment. This is why weekend rates need to be protected by legislation."

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