I was suprised to learn that SA Independent MP Nickenophon is introducing a Bill to dramatically reduce penalty rates for weekend and overtime work. For the most part Senator Xenophon’s platform has seemed to be one if support for the community – certainly his sustained and determined attitude toward reducing gambling’s deleterious effects has had my support.

My position is clearly informed by my political position – my sympathies lean more to the employee than the employer. I am sympathetic to small businesses concerns about the effect penalty rates have on their bottom line – though some restaurants add a public holiday surchase to compensate, for the most part goods (if not services) cost the same regardless of whether they’re purchased on a weekday or over the weekend. However, my greater concern is for those employees who will, should the Senator’s Bill pass, be sacrificing their weekends without recognitionary recompense – particularly as it’s likely they’ll have little choice in whether to work those hours or not

My position is also informed by my own experiences. As I wrote in an email to the Senator,

I’ve been a registered nurse for over two decades. I work at the bedside, delivering care to patients 24-hours a day, 7 days a week, because their needs don’t change depending on the time or day.

In recognition of the unsociable hours I work, the time I spend away from my families, the missed weddings and parties and birthdays and significant events, I receive additional financial recompense, in the form of penalty rates.

Without that additional pay it’s going to be very difficult to keep young nurses and midwives at the bedside, Why should they sacrifice the time their families, friends and partners (who live in the normal workd of Monday to Friday, 9-5) have off?

My skills are professional and valued – my personal time is no more special to me that anyone else’s is to them.

Until government agencies are open 7 days a week, we are not a 7-day-a-week society; we still hold weekends to be special, separate – time for ordinary workers to spend with family, in volunteer work, in worship and at sport (the same thing for many Australians). Every day is not treated the same.

Senator Xenophon, please protect our weekends, and retain the acknowledgment that those of us who work unsociable hours are doing so at a cost – please withdraw your Bill from Parliament.

Regards

Tara Nipe, Clinical Nurse Specialist

(I am indebted to Wendy Smith, who on August 29th posted on the ANF’s Vic. branch Facebook wall the observation that government offices, including VicRoads and CentreLink, don’t open every day of the week.)

For Your Rights at Work, who are organising the protest (there’s a link to the petition here), the main impetus is keeping weekends sancrosanct. I don’t have a problem with that, and appreciate that this approach makes it easier for those who work Monday to Friday to appreciate the issue, by bringing it home to them. For me, though, the issue is at least as much about the  financial recognition for those of us who unavoidably must work them.

We do not live in a 9-5, 24/7 world – not yet. The weekend still has meaning for most of us, and until that changes, we need to keep penalty rates. If you already work weekends,please consider signing. If you don’t, think about how your bursiness or industry might change witht he abolition of weekend penalties – and the likelihood that you may end up rostered to work Saturdays and Sundays, with no financial recognition of the sacrifices and complications this would make.

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