Union baulks at penatly rates bill

THE nation's hospitality union has hit out at a move by independent Senator Nick Xenophon to limit weekend penalty rates for small businesses.

On Tuesday Senator Xenophon said he planned to introduce a private members bill to limit weekend penalty rates for workers to only those who had worked more than 10 hours a day or more than 38 hours a week.

He said the bill would help small businesses such as restaurants to continue to open on weekends, as escalating staffing costs were forcing some small retailers and hospitality ventures out of weekend operation.

But Louise Tarrant, national president of United Voice, on Tuesday called on all parliamentarians to vote against the bill.

She said the bill would erode workers' rights to higher pay packets for working weekends.

"Australians overwhelmingly support protecting weekends with penalty rates," she said.

"Just a week ago a national study by Galaxy research showed that 87% of adult Australians believe workers should be compensated with higher pay if they are required to work on Saturday or Sunday.

"The research found there is virtually universal agreement (97%) that weekends are an important time for families."

While Ms Tarrant said Senator Xenophon's bill would affect 90% of workplaces, he said it would only affect those businesses with 20 staff or less operating on weekends.

"This isn't just debilitating for the businesses, it means that people who want to work on weekends - especially students - are missing out on work," he said.

Australian Council of Trade Unions president Ged Kearney said the bill represented the thin end of the wedge from businesses looking to erode workers' rights.

Ms Kearney said would use Fair Work Australia's modern awards review process to ensure the higher pay rates remained.

It is understood Senator Xenophon planned to introduce the bill during parliamentary sittings this week.