A major component of working life for most nurses and midwives is shiftwork, including nights, weekends and public holidays. When you work unsociable hours, miss out on time with family and friends and subject your body to the stresses of shiftwork, you deserve to be compensated – which is why penalty rates exist.
But here’s the worrying truth: Tony Abbott is on record as supporting the elimination of penalty rates. Big business is sending him a loud message to make cutting penalty rates a priority should he be elected. However, if enough of us make our voices heard during the election campaign, penalty rates can be protected.
Nurse Uncut wants to hear your story – what do penalty rates mean to you?
Leah’s works at a young women’s refuge in Sydney, which is a 24-hour a day, 365 days a year concern. The staff of course are paid penalty rates for the shiftwork they do. The young women who come to the refuge have suffered significant trauma and Leah works to support them so they can recover and grow into independent, confident women.
In an interview below for Australian Unions, Leah talks about her work and how essential penalty rates are to it.
Like Leah, as a nurse or midwife, you don’t work nine to five, Monday to Friday. You may have to miss significant occasions like Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve. You’re simply not able to rely on spending every Sunday relaxing with your friends or partner. It’s not unreasonable to get paid a little extra for working when most others are not.
If elected, one of the first things Tony Abbott will do is launch a Productivity Commission inquiry into the Fair Work Act. This will be a soap box for business to revisit its wishlist to restore key elements of WorkChoices. Their big ticket item is cutting and abolishing penalty rates.
Penalty rates are an important right that many previous generations of union members have fought for and that many nurses and midwives rely on and of course deserve.
To join the conversation about how important penalty rates are, contact us at Nurse Uncut or leave your story in comments. Let’s make sure whoever is prime minister after the election is committed to protecting the penalty rates that workers like you rely on.
And if you haven’t already, make sure you enrol to vote or update your details if you’ve moved house in the past three years. The outcome of this election could mean that you’ll be personally out of pocket if penalty rates are eliminated.
Working Life: Australia Votes 2013 – an ACTU blog about working conditions and this election.