Penalty-rate protesters aim for Ekka showdown with Abbott

AN ARMY of young people wearing #lastpeoplesday t-shirts staged a protest at the Ekka in Brisbane amid fears a federal Coalition government in power would abolish penalty rates.

They claimed the anticipated move would threaten their livelihoods and the future of iconic public holidays, like people's day at the Ekka.

Queensland Council of Unions president John Battams said Ekka people's day would disappear because many people would be forced to work for much lower rates.

"There are millions of Australians who know they can only survive day to day life because they earn penalty rates for late hours of work and public holidays and weekends," he said.

Australian Council of Trade Unions president Ged Kearney said young people studying at university or young families could not survive these days without penalty rates.

She said there was plenty of evidence an Abbott-led government would abolish the rates and move towards scrapped workplace agreements, but likely by another name.

"Business is constantly out there telling us that penalty rates are crippling," she said.

"This is just not so, we have a very strong economy in Australia.

"If you take penalty rates away from the young people behind us or people working at the hospital up the road or anyone who has to work unsociable hours that are compensated by penalty rates, then you will rip billions and billions out of the economy."

In May, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said a Coalition government would retain the Fair Work Act, but would bring about a Productivity Commission review into the longer-term operation of industrial relations legislation.

The Coalition would not implement any recommendations arising from that review without first seeking a mandate at the following election.In unveiling the policy, Mr Abbott also ruled out winding back penalty rates and unfair dismissal laws.

Young worker, Sarah Maguire, 20, who works for a shipping company, said she would lose about $20,000 a year if she lost penalty rates.

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