SKILLS: Woolgoolga Neighbourhood Centre will host a hospitality training course.
SKILLS: Woolgoolga Neighbourhood Centre will host a hospitality training course. David Nielsen

Will penalty rates go?

AS DEBATE heats up across the nation over the future of weekend penalty rates, Coast shift workers will be watching with bated breath to see what unfolds.

With a huge segment of the region's workforce involved in tourism, hospitality and the retail trade, sweeping changes to the penalty rate system would affect many on the Coast.

Any changes will not affect Landsborough Pub publican Terry Morrow's staff.

His teams at the Landsborough Pub and another of his venues in Rockhampton are covered by a collective bargaining agreement that guarantees above-award pay and weekend penalty rates, but Mr Morrow feels there may be some positives in changing the system.

"Yes and no, because quite a number of them miss out on work (under the current penalty rate system)," he said.

Mr Morrow said penalty rates were the biggest overhead for many businesses and changes to the system could result in increased hours for some staff.

"You might see more fairness across the board with employers," he said.

"My team all get an equal share of the weekend work ... but changes might give others a bit more regularity.

"From an employer's point of view, overall it would enhance the opportunity for employees to make more money across the board because we are a seven-day world, not just country."

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The experienced publican said he made a conscious effort to rotate weekend work throughout his staff to ensure they all received the benefits of penalty rates and maintain a sense of fairness among his team.

"I haven't got a business without my staff," he said.

University of the Sunshine Coast Student Guild secretary Brett Huyton said the penalty rates issue had wide-spread ramifications not just for young students, but also for mature-age students who relied on penalty rates to top up their weekly income and support their families.

Mr Huyton, a 24-year-old international-relations honours student, said students were already making sacrifices with their studies in a bid to secure more work, and cutting penalty rates could see increase that trend.

"There's a reason why they call it penalty rates," Mr Huyton said.

He believed there was a great opportunity to open discussion on the topic and find a solution that benefited both employers and staff.

"There's mental health as well as physical health issues too with having to juggle irregular work shifts and early class times - it takes a lot out of you," he said. "You've also got the risk of more people being forced into part-time study and if people are taking six years instead of three to get into higher paying jobs... there's flow-on effects for the economy."

Mr Huyton said he was not opposed to changes to the employment system, he just hoped there could be an open, thoughtful discussion and flexibility from both sides.

"There's people trying to maintain a family, study and earn a valid income - how do you do that?" he said.

He said many students were forced into an almost "seasonal" work approach.

"You almost need to stock up (the money when the shifts are plentiful) to see you through," he said.

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