Abbott backs the cutting of penalty rates as inquiry begins

PRIME Minister Tony Abbott has backed a long-term business campaign to cut penalty rates on weekends, saying he is "always in favour of more jobs", as a year-long inquiry into the issue begins.

Mr Abbott told The Australian that he did not "begrudge" workers the money that weekend work often attracted, but that "in the end there's a balance to be struck here and my preference will always be in favour of more jobs".

His comments come as the Productivity Commission last week released five papers to prompt submissions to its inquiry on penalty rates, minimum wages and the wider industrial relations landscape.

In one of the papers, the commission has specifically asked for input on penalty rates, and whether the higher pay rates that weekend and late-night work attracts should be deregulated, and put in the hands of individual negotiations between employers and workers.

While the government has not specifically backed any measures, Employment Minister Senator Eric Abetz has said the government will consider the commission's report and take any major changes to an election.

Employer groups and the business lobby has long argued for penalty rates to be lowered as small businesses particularly in regional areas struggle to pay for staff, forcing some businesses to close on weekends.

But unions are expected to fight any moves to weaken penalty rate regulation, or specific pay rates, after a length campaign last year centred on workers' "rights" to be paid above award wages for shifts when most Australians do not have to work.

The commission has called for submissions from unions and employers, and is considering travelling to regional areas or holding tele-conferences to hear from specific groups in regional areas. - APN Newsdesk



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