With the Fair Work Commission currently assessing penalty rates in the hospitality and retail sectors, federal Coalition candidates were being coy on whether they supported them.
The FWC, an independent industrial relations umpire, was nearing the end of its 18-month review of hospitality and retail awards which included weekend and after hours penalty rates.
Business groups have argued for the abolition or reduction of penalty rates more in line with the growing 24-hour economy.
Unions have rejected the 24-hour economy argument and said penalty rates were vital for people working unsociable hours which impacted home life and wellbeing.
Both major parties have declared they will respect the FWC’s decision on penalty rates but the Labor party has publicly offered support to retain the current system.
Last year Coalition Employment Minister Michaelia Cash said penalty rates deterred weekend work.
Liberal candidates for Tangney and Swan Ben Morton and Steve Irons did not answer questions about their personal views on penalty rates were and instead said they would accept the rulings of the FWC.
Liberal candidate for Burt Matt O’Sullivan said he “fully appreciated” the significance of penalty rates to workers, especially those who were low paid but said it was the FWC’s responsibility.
“It’s vital that, on a subject as important as this, it be left to an impartial and objective body to examine the circumstances in each particular industry, consult with both workers and businesses, and hand down its independent decision, free from political interference,” he said.
Labor party candidates for Burt and Swan Matt Keogh and Tammy Solonec expressed support for penalty rates.
“Penalty rates continue to be a fundamental part of a strong safety net for Australian workers, enabling those in low-income and highly casualised industries to share in the nation’s economic prosperity,” Ms Solonec said.
Mr Keogh said penalty rates were critical to individual workers and their families.
“If you reduce the take home pay of low-paid workers, you reduce the amount they spend, which will negatively impact on businesses and the economy as a whole,” he said.
“This is why Labor’s submissions to the FWC has supported the maintenance of penalty rates.”
Labor candidate for Tangney Marion Boswell was contacted but did not respond by deadline.