For Wagga’s Rachael Peverall, who has worked in the retail and hospitality industry for more than five years, penalty rates are her “bread and butter”.
“I go week-by-week just like any other person and every dollar counts,” Ms Peverall said.
“The cuts will have a huge impact on my life.”
Ms Peverall works at Autobarn and has hit out at the Fair Work Commission cuts, which are supported by the federal government.
The criticism comes after a recently released McKell Institute study revealed Riverina workers would lose more than $16 million as a result of the penalty rate cuts.
Retail and hospitality employees, who make up 90 per cent of the Riverina’s weekend workers, are set to lose when cuts to penalty rates come into effect on July 1.
Ms Peverall said penalty rates motivate workers to say yes to Sunday shifts.
“Most people wouldn’t be willing to work,” Ms Peverall said.
“The extra money definitely motivates me to say yes to extra shifts.”
Wagga restaurant owner Robert Baliva said penalty rates could hurt workers and they would remain open on Sundays, despite the cuts.
“I think the workers do rely on the extra pay, it could constitute about a 10 per cent drop in their overall salary,” Mr Baliva said.
“When you work it out that could be a tank of petrol, I’m happy to pay the extra and like giving workers their owed penalty rates.”
The study also stated the cuts would result in a loss of more than $7 million for the region’s economy.
Mr Baliva said cuts could negatively affect consumers and the wider local industry.
“They make businesses less inclined to open on weekends and public holidays,” Mr Baliva said.
“We do better on Sundays and it is worth it for us to stay open. We’ll remain open unless there’s a really dramatic change.”
Labor figure Tim Kurylowicz said potential penalty cuts would hurt younger workers and women the hardest.
“When you consider the average salaries in Wagga are much lower than the state and national average you can quickly see how important it is for workers,” Mr Kurylowicz said.
“Penalty rates are one small part of some of the lowest paid Australians getting their fair share.”
Mr Kurylowicz said the cuts would negatively impact on businesses profits as well as wages themselves.
“You only spend money in cafes and retail when you’ve got it in your pocket,” Mr Kurylowicz said.
“Workers rely on these rates as disposable income.”
Mr Kurylowicz agreed workers should have an incentive to work on a Sunday, which is traditionally “special”.
“Our society is still structured around the idea of doing less on a Sunday, whether you’re religious or not,” Mr Kurylowicz said.
“It is hypocritical for bankers and politicians to tell young people that Sunday is just like any other day.”