Unions warn economy will suffer if penalty rates scrapped

QUEENSLAND'S economy will suffer if changes are made to minimum wages and penalty rates, a union member says.

Thousands of people across the country rallied as part of the National Day of Action yesterday against the Federal Government's Productivity Commission inquiry into possibly abolishing the minimum wage and cutting weekend penalty rates.

Queensland Council of Unions president John Battams said if these changes were made, the region would suffer severely.

In Queensland about 700,000 people are paid penalty rates.

"If you knock off penalty rates, you're pulling a huge amount of money out of the local economy," he said.

"So every regional town in Queensland will suffer if they cut people's wages."

The rallies across Queensland also celebrated the end of the Newman LNP government.

Mr Battams said regional areas played a "pivotal" role in helping Labor win the election.

"We won 11 seats outside the south-east corner and nobody expected that to happen," he said.

This included Keppel, near Rockhampton, Maryborough, Bundaberg and Mirani, near Mackay.

"So the result wouldn't have occurred without regional Queensland," Mr Battams said.

Last month the Labor Government did not make it clear where it stood on industrial action when staff stopped worked at coal freight depots in Mackay, Rockhampton, Maryborough, Toowoomba and Charleville.

There were also plans for strike action near Gladstone but this was withdrawn.

But yesterday Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk took to the stage at the Brisbane rally, saying the Prime Minister Tony Abbott did not listen to Queensland and that the state government would stand up to fight for penalty rates and minimum wages.

Mr Battams said strike action over the Productivity Commission inquiry was not likely at this stage, but if it did occur, he expected the Queensland Government would respect the rights of workers to take that action.

"And as long as it's within the law, the Labor Party and Labor government will respect trade unionists' right to take industrial action, but I don't expect a huge breakout," he said.

- APN NEWSDESK

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