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AWU Helps Hairdressers Fight Penalty Rate Cuts With New Campaign

AWU helps hairdressers fight penalty rate cuts with new campaign

The Australian Workers Union has launched a campaign called Hair Stylists Australia, to fight proposed penalty rate cuts.

AWU national secretary Daniel Walton says penalty rates are under threat, following cuts to Sunday and public holidays rates in retail, hospitality and pharmacy.

“They’ve got the employers in hairdressing industry trying to strip away what little pay they’ve already got,” he told  ABC News.

“What we’re trying to do is empower women [to] come together through small community engagement to really give them a stronger voice.”

AWU helps hairdressers fight penalty rate cuts

In August, the Fair Work Commission will review the hairdressing award, and, as a result, Aussie hairdressers could be left worse off.

Daniel Walton said:

“Hairdressers are sitting there going ‘when are my skills going to be recognised?

 “When is my pay going to reflect the qualifications and all the dedication I’ve given?

“Women are prepared to get together, they are prepared to stand up, they’re prepared to fight for what is right.” 

Daniel Walton – AWU National Secretary.

Bullying and underpayments main issues

Hairdresser Vanessa Watt is a union organiser and also an “ambassador” for Hair Stylists Australia.

As a result of workers sharing their concerns, she became involved.

“The main issues are bullying, from either the boss or other staff and not getting paid correctly.

“So some people not knowing their awards and things like that, not having their superannuation paid, and training.”

Hair Stylist Australia ambassadors wear shiny pink T-shirts and they also talk to members on social media platforms.

Hair Stylists Australia ambassadors wear pink t-shirts and talk to members via social media.

Who’s next to lose their penalty rates?

As an employer, Watt says she understands why the industry wants to reduce penalty rates, however, she says it’s not the right approach.

“It’s hard enough on [apprentice] wages and then if they take that away it’s going to be even harder for them.

“It seems with this sort of stuff hairdressing gets picked on a lot. 

“I can see on both sides but I still don’t think it’s fair to cut our penalty rates.”

Additionally, Daniel Walton from the AWU warns workers in other industries could have their penalty rates cut next:

“Everyone thinks it won’t happen to me,” he said.

“No-one thought they were going to lose penalty rates in retail hospitality many years ago.

“If hairdressers lose their penalty rates, who’s next?”

Sunday trading unavoidable

In its submission to the Fair Work Commission, the Hair and Beauty Association noted financial pressures on salons.

It said major shopping centres demand salons open on Sundays and public holidays, leaving employers with no choice but to pay higher penalty rates.

The submission additionally states:

“The difficulties many small retailers face in negotiating the term of retail leases with the owners of large retail shopping centres are notorious.

“Accordingly, many hair and beauty businesses are not able to avoid Sunday and public holiday penalties.

“Sunday trading has become an increasingly prominent feature of the industry.”

Vanessa Watt says it will be apprentices who will pay the price for penalty rate cuts.

Workers deserve compensation

Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan says workers deserve compensation for working weekends and public holidays.

“Why should the employer be the only one to benefit from a person giving up the chance to spend time with their family or friends because they have to work on these particular days?” he said.

“It’s not fair that hairdressers, who already earn low wages, to have their entitlements slashed even further.”


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