‘I couldn’t pay the bills without penalty rates’
Aged care assistant nurse Joane Reyes studies part-time for a nursing degree. She works a permanent Saturday to Wednesday roster so she can attend university on weekdays.
Joane has been doing weekend work for about nine years. “I couldn’t pay the bills without penalty rates,” she says. “In any case uni doesn’t operate on weekends so I have to work Saturdays and Sundays if I want to attend weekday classes and be an economically independent woman.”
Joane is the NSWNMA branch president at Mark Moran Little Bay nursing home.
“The decision to cut penalty rates was very unfair. Some of my colleagues suggested calling the Nurses Association when they heard the news. I explained it doesn’t apply to nurses – at least not yet. But sure enough it will come to the health sector one day.
“This will really hurt a lot of hospitality and retail workers. A lot of them are struggling to put themselves through uni and pay the rent.”
Joane believes the penalty rates cut will be “quite damaging” to single mothers and other women who work weekends when family members are available to look after their children.
“This will affect a lot of women because there are so many of them in retail and hospitality jobs and because there are often more childcare options at weekends.
“If they are not paid properly for their work on week-ends, when most people are enjoying time with family and friends, how can they earn enough to support their families?”
‘It won’t stop at hospitality and retail. It will flow on to other areas for sure.’
Nurse and midwife Jacquie Myers says the decision to cut penalty rates for Sundays and public holidays will force many young people to work more hours just to get the same income.
“It’s a blow to a lot of people who will have to work longer hours and have even less of a social life.
“And it will widen the gap between those who get decent penalty rates and those who get lower rates or none at all.
“It won’t stop at hospitality and retail. It will flow on to other areas for sure.”
Jacquie and both her adult children have at various times relied on penalty rates to make ends meet.
“I did 13 years of night nursing at Gosford Hospital because it was difficult to get child care early enough to cover the day shift. There was no child minding at work in those days.
“I worked unsociable hours every Saturday and Sunday so I could afford to bring up my kids. It’s only fair that we get proper compensation for working when most other people are sleeping or enjoying time with their families.”
Jacquie’s children, both in their thirties, previously worked weekends in cafes and restaurants to help pay for tertiary studies.
“Penalty rates helped my daughter Bec put herself through uni. She worked as a fitness trainer and did penalty shifts at a café for the extra money.
“Sunday was when she earned big money so she could buy some decent clothes and run a car.
“At that time, we all lived on the central coast where public transport is poor and almost non-existent after hours.
“Kids there need those jobs (paying penalty rates) so they can afford to run a car to get back and forth to work and uni.”