Thousands face penalty rate slash
A GROWING number of little clubs whose workers regularly pour Australians a beer are now being forced to break ranks to save their penalty rates from being cut.
More than 150 registered clubs have made submissions to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to protect workers' Club Award wage from being reduced by 10 per cent.
Clubs Australia - the governing body of more than 6400 licensed clubs - has been pushing since last year to have the Club Award abolished and replaced with the Hospitality Award.
The change would affect all registered clubs across Australia and will allow Clubs Australia bosses to cut penalty rates for 42,000 workers at bowling, RSL, sporting and Leagues Clubs across the country.
So far their arguments have failed. But the lobby group's application is up for a FWC review on October 29.
For the workers who cover Saturday and Sunday shifts (wait and bar staff, cleaners and more) it will mean about $100 less in pay for every weekend they work.
United Voice, the union assisting small clubs taking on the giant ahead of the FWC decision, has said the amount of workers affected by the cuts would equate to "giving the whole town of Dubbo a pay cut".
United Voice National Secretary Jo-anne Schofield told News Corp Australia the amount of clubs breaking rank to go against Clubs Australia in the fight for fair pay is significant.
"Clubs are community organisations; the 150 Aussie clubs sticking up for penalty rates have shown that they are not out of step with these values," she said.
"The strong support coming into the Fair Work Commission for club workers just puts on show the growing split between the out-of-touch Clubs Australia and the local clubs that act in the interests of their communities and their workers.
"We are heartened by the growing number of good clubs sticking to their community values and speaking out against this attack on weekend workers."
As of Thursday, more than 150 clubs including the South Perth Bowling Club in WA, the Woodford Golf Club in Queensland and the Hornsby RSL Club and Newcastle Leagues Club in NSW have written submissions to the FWC declaring they do not support Clubs Australia's push to change the award.
Larger bodies including RSL Queensland have also indicated they do not support the move.
Casino Returned Servicemen's Memorial Club CEO Neale Genge - whose business employs 65 people near the NSW/QLD border - said a successful award merger would devastate his workers.
He explained the bulk of the business' casual workforce consisted of people who worked when their full-time working partner had the weekend off.
"So, once we change that, we lose that pool of available staff, where they can't pick up that extra money... to pay for school holiday activities and trips away with the kids," Mr Genge said.
He said members had shown strong support for the club's stance, and were proud they were not out to dampen workers' earning potential.
"Some people think hospitality is something you do in your spare time, and for some that's true, but for many it's their way of making a living," he said.
He claimed Clubs Australia and ClubsNSW had been dismissive of the issue.
"They just fob you off... they just don't want to talk about it," he said.
He said communication and consultation from peak bodies had been poor, and no additional meetings beyond quarterly catch-ups had been organised to discuss the important issue. Meeting venues were sometimes hours away from regional and rurual clubs, he added.
The move is a huge backflip, according to Mr Genge, where for years clubs had aimed to differentiate themselves from pubs.
"And now they're turning around and saying, 'no we're exactly the same as the pubs, so let's cut penalty rates'," he said.
But Clubs Australia has hit back, saying a 2015 KPMG Club Census report found 40 per cent of clubs were showing signs of financial distress.
The peak body also claimed their own opinion canvassing had found significant support for the abolition of the Clubs Award.
"With that in mind, it is not fair to expect a regional bowling club to pay bar staff higher penalty rates than Sydney's Star Casino," a Clubs Australia Industrial spokesman said.
"The application is all about providing struggling clubs with a level playing field so that they can compete with similar hospitality venues on comparable terms.
"While just over two per cent of clubs across the country have made submissions against the proposal, it would appear more than 97 per cent of clubs are comfortable with the CAI application."
The spokesman added that if the award merger were to proceed, clubs could still choose to pay their staff more.
The 2015 National Clubs Census commissioned by Clubs NSW found that clubs paid a total of $4321.7 million in salaries while their combined economic and social revenue was $12.2 billion in the same year.
Considering this the union was of the view that clubs could afford to continue to offer their staff good pay, as well as good beer, good food and good values.
"It's just not on for dedicated club workers to be treated like this. This is not what clubs should be about," Ms Schofield said.