The union representing retail workers is rejecting the notion that a cut in penalty rates would create more employment on the Northern Rivers.
It is an idea that has been repeatedly floated by the region’s business lobby groups.
The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has suggested changes to penalty rates are inevitable.
The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association is campaigning against the idea, and will host a meeting in Ballina today.
Spokesman Bernie Smith said he did not believe more shops and cafes would open without the burden of weekend penalty rates.
“There’s no evidence to back that up,” he said.
“The Restaurant and Catering Association made the grand claim that if you cut penalty rates they would create 40,000 jobs with 60,000 hours.
“Now that’s a one-and-a-half-hour job.
“With all due respect to the Restaurant and Catering Association if that’s the best they can do, they’re not offering people jobs really.
“It’s a bit of a joke to say that one and a half hours amounts to a job.”
Mr Smith said even a partial abolition of penalties could cost retail workers in the federal electorate of Page more than $12 million a year.
“If you cut people’s take-home pay by cutting penalty rates, and that’s all you’re doing is cutting the amount of money in somebody’s pay packet, then you’re affecting consumption in the local economy,” he said.
“Given that most retail and hospitality workers spend the majority of their income, any cut to their income is a cut to their budget and a cut to spending in the local economy of Page.”
Page MP Kevin Hogan has called for a calm debate on the issue.
He said while some professions should be immune to any cuts, reducing weekend pay rates could benefit younger job seekers.
“Maybe we look at it and say well, if a person works full time then they get a penalty rate of X-amount,” Mr Hogan said.
“[But] if a person is a university student, if they’re in the last two years of high school and they literally want to work on a Sunday because that’s the only time they can, is there a formula that’s better for them?
“That they get the job because the restaurant or cafe will open if they can pay them less, and they’re happy to do it because then they get the job and the cafe is open.
“Some people work five days a week and they work on a Saturday or a Sunday and they wouldn’t do that unless they got a penalty rate.
“That is certainly taken into their budget and we need to be respectful of that.
“I’m also cognisant that you would never do this in certain sectors.
“We would not have a nurse or a police officer work on a Sunday unless there was a penalty rate applied for that, and so there should be.”