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Pay Cut Adds to Stress - Letter to the Editor 09.03.2017

22 May 2017

09.03.2017 - Letter to the Editor, Townsville Bulletin

Dear Editor

It appears that we are now living in the "Age of Anxiety", which is marked by disquiet and misgiving.  We are living in extremely complex and troubled times or at least that is the message that we hear every day. 

We seem to feel more insecure about our future and we are shocked when we discover that the systems we have developed don't seem to be serving us well.  We constantly hear that we cannot take our future for granted. 

It has also been said that "the average high school child today has the same anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the early 1950's" and this is unacceptable.  

Townsville is home to many veterans, ex service personnel and their families who are struggling with severe and complex mental health issues, people living with a disability are fearful of a genuine commitment to the NDIS, our young people need jobs, and small business is struggling.  Our First Nation people are still lagging well behind mainstream populations and difference is feared and not valued or embraced.

The recent decision of the Fair Work Commission to cut penalty rates to workers in the Retail, Food and Accommodation industries is truly unfair and will not help any of those mentioned above or the degree of anxiety in our community.  This decision may impact on 1 in 6 Townsville workers which equates to 13,000 people, whose pay packet will be reduced every week.

In a city where unemployment is over 11% and youth unemployment is over 17%, cuts to penalty rates will destroy our local economy and have huge effect on people’s mental health. 

The Townsville economy relies on the cash injection of young people under the age of 26 years and many of those are University students.  A large majority of University students earn penalty rates, and cutting their wages is not going to help our economy, as they spend every cent that they earn to survive.

The cuts to penalty rates does not guarantee an increase employment, in fact it is more likely that the same workers will need to work longer hours to ensure that their take home pay is not reduced and that is in reality a pay cut.

We need to consider the impact of penalty rate cuts from both a financial and mental health perspective; these are some of the lowest paid workers in our society.  

The Australian Psychological Society conducted a survey throughout 2011 to 2015 where the results reported the top cause of stress amongst Australians is personal finances. 

I call on the Turnbull Government to take immediate action to challenge these cuts to penalty rates. Enough is enough. This government needs to stop attacking the most vulnerable in our nation who are struggling to make ends meet, surely people’s lives are far more important than politics.

Cathy O’Toole MP

We'll Put People First.

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