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Weekend Penalty Rates Could Be Slashed

Decision to be handed down

Weekend Penalty Rates Could Be Slashed

IMAGE - Getty Images

Malcolm Turnbull says he'll accept the decision of the independent umpire on penalty rates, but Labor is concerned it comes at the wrong time for working families.

Retail and hospitality workers will find out on Thursday whether their weekend penalty rates are to be slashed when a long-awaited Fair Work Commission decision is handed down in Melbourne at 11am.

The commission is considering a proposal to bring the Sunday rate in line with the lower Saturday rate - one of several workplace relations recommendations made by the Productivity Commission last year.

The prime minister has flagged the government will accept the ruling of the independent tribunal.

But Labor workplace spokesman Brendan O'Connor says pay packets are already under stress, growing at a record-low rate of 1.9 per cent.

Mr O'Connor says instead of knuckling down to tackle the problem, the prime minister wants to abolish or cut penalty rates.

In the December quarter, private sector seasonally adjusted wages grew 0.4 per cent. In the public sector, wages did little better, growing 0.6 per cent for the quarter.

Annual wages growth has now been flat or falling since June 2014.

Business groups say the commission must balance the interests of employed people with those seeking work, as well as business operators and consumers.

They say adjusting penalty rates will allow small businesses to offer more work and better meet the needs of customers.

The ACTU says the government could have intervened to protect penalty rates.

However it did not do so and at the same time had failed to tackle the overuse of casual workers and short-term contracting, abuse of the labour hire system and exploitation of migrant workers.