A group of ACT businesses is arguing against push to cut penalty rates

30 October 2018
Written By Sally White

Some Canberra clubs have rejected a campaign by their national representative body to reduce weekend penalty rates for their staff.

A Fair Work Commission hearing will continue on Tuesday where Clubs Australia is arguing for the award covering workers in clubs to be abolished and for workers to be covered by the hospitality award, which has lower penalty rates.

The Burns Club, the Austrian Australian Club, the Federal Golf Club, the Belconnen Soccer Club, the Murrumbidgee Country Club, the Australian Croatian Club and the Labor Clubs throughout Canberra have all said they do not support the move.

Burns Club president and Canberra Community Clubs chairman Athol Chalmers said it was important to acknowledge clubs were different from the hospitality industry, as they were run to benefit members and not for profit.

"We're not for profit and we need to service the community. In our case it's both the Scottish community and the broader Canberra community. An important part of that is looking after people in the community, and those who work in the club," Mr Chalmers said.

Staff at clubs were often students paying their way through university or older people with mortgages and energy costs, he said, who deserved to get paid more if they worked on weekends and late at night.

Clubs also got tax benefits from their not-for-profit status as a member organisation, and advantages due to the poker machine licenses they were given by the ACT government, creating a sense of responsibility, according to Mr Chalmers.

"In return for that benefit we think we should be putting additional funds back into our membership and our workforce," he said.

Federal Golf Club general manager Scott Elias said the club supported its workers and he was "just about 100 per cent sure" it would continue to pay the rates provided under the clubs award, even if it was abolished.

The Dickson Tradies is also part of the Community Clubs' push against the change. Chief operating officer Alison Percival said clubs shouldn't try to be too close to the hospitality industry.

"The club industry has core objectives and they would do well to remember what they are, what our purpose is. Our staff are no more valuable than any other employees out there, but we recognise the contribution that our staff make to helping us achieve our objectives as a club," Ms Percival said.

Labor member for Fenner Andrew Leigh and the party's candidate for Canberra Alicia Payne have also backed the local clubs' advocacy for the clubs award.

"The fact is that many Australians feel time squeezed and many people recognise that inequality is on the rise in Australia," Dr Leigh said.

"Weekend penalty rates protect the weekend, protect socialising time and look after some of the most vulnerable in our community."

Clubs who already had poker machines when the licensing scheme was brought in got their licenses for free, and a 2015 KPMG study found clubs in the ACT were more likely to be financially stable, solid or flourishing compared to their counterparts interstate. Clubs face increasingly tighter regulation regarding pokies, with the ACT government attempting to reduce numbers of machines in the territory to 4000.

This article was provided by The Canberra Times