HOSPITALITY workers should be paid penalty rates when they give up their weekends and public holidays says the head of the union representing them.
United Voice national secretary Louise Tarrant said weekends held a special place in Australian life, therefore people who surrendered them needed to be compensated.
“People do a lot of things on the weekends like play sports and get married so if someone is asked to work during this period it’s reasonable that they get some recompense for that,” she said.
Restaurant and Catering Australia and the NSW Business Chamber hope to change penalty-rate laws through Fair Work Australia.
Ms Tarrant said many hospitality workers worked hard and kept “unsociable hours” so it was unfair to expect them to be paid a minimal wage of $15.50 an hour.
“The key to a good dining experience is a stable, quality workforce, and to do that you have to pay people properly,” she said.
Ms Tarrant said the profitability of a cafe or restaurant shouldn’t be at the expense of decent wages for workers.
Racine Restaurant’s Willa Arantz said she would welcome reductions to penalty rates.
“This problem is two-pronged, what it costs and what people are prepared to pay don’t add up,” she said.
“The fact is, restaurants make some of the smallest profit margins across all industries. Staff costs can be up to 45 per cent of your takings.
“Most hospitality workers are young kids who want a bit of extra cash, yet some weeks I have paid out $1000 for not even 30 hours work and way more than I earn myself as the business owner.
“While I certainly don’t begrudge paying our staff ... I think the rates are too high in relation to what we can charge and especially with superannuation going up 3 per cent.
“It’s all fine to keep paying high wages for low-skilled work but somewhere along the lines something has to give.
Mrs Arantz said Australia was the only country that payed “such enormous wages” to hospitality workers.
“I think the population needs to come to terms with the fact that not every job is going to make you a fortune and that we all have to start out somewhere, even in low-paid jobs,” she said.
“Some jobs are well paid because of the skill and career prospects and some are just a way to make some extra cash.”