Pharmacy assistant union loses penalty rates bid

Two unions have lost a bid to overturn the FWC’s decision to cut penalty rates for pharmacy, retail and hospitality workers

The Federal Court has ruled that the FWC met its legal obligations when it handed down its decision to cut penalty rates for pharmacy, retail and hospitality workers.

The unions, in a joint case brought by the United Voice and the “shop assistants” union—the SDA—had argued the FWC’s decision was “unreasonable” and had failed to consider how the cuts would affect low-paid workers. 

During the Melbourne hearing, the unions also argued the commission had not fulfilled other obligations under the act in coming to its decision.

However, Federal Court Judge Mordy Bromberg said the court’s role was restricted to determining whether the commission had made an administrative error.

“The Fair Work Commission alone was vested with the responsibility for assessing all relevant matters and reaching all the conclusions necessary to decide whether or not to make the determinations that it did,” the ABC reports.

The SDA said it is “bitterly” disappointed by the decision.

“Both unions put up a strong fight to reverse Sunday and public holiday penalty rate cuts but unfortunately, the Federal Court did not rule in our favour.

“The SDA won these penalty rates in the Retail Award in 2009 and we have defended them ever since —taking it all the way to Federal Court.

“The decision to cut penalty rates was harsh and unfair – it hurt retail, fast food, hospitality and pharmacy workers who can’t afford a pay cut.

“We are bitterly disappointed in this decision but the SDA will continue to fight to protect the take-home pay of retail, fast food and pharmacy workers.” 

The SDA said it will continue to push to restore the take-home pay of workers covered by the Retail, Fast Food and Pharmacy Awards.

“Most SDA members are covered by an SDA-negotiated Agreement, which means cuts to penalty rates in Awards does not directly impact their take-home pay.

“However, it does mean the floor from which we negotiate new Agreements lowers—which is why it’s so important to keep up the fight to protect take-home pay for workers covered by Awards.

“But the SDA isn’t giving up now—until penalty rates are restored, the fight isn’t over.”

Labor leader Bill Shorten tweeted that he was disappointed by the Federal Court ruling.

The union representing employee pharmacists, Professional Pharmacists Australia, had not joined in the court action.

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