‘The mere fact that it is Anzac Day is not a reasonable excuse not to work’. That’s the message that Bindaree Beef delivered to their employees late last week, bluntly demanding that their staff turn up for work on a public holiday.
Except that, actually, it is. Anzac Day is a public holiday in Australia, which means that it’s a very reasonable (and legal) excuse not to work. However, simply being on the wrong side of the law wasn’t going to stop Bindaree Beef, who went on to claim that the Fair Work Act gave them the power to force employees to show up – and not only that, but they wouldn’t be paying anybody who didn’t comply!
Just 24 hours later, Bindaree had backed down. Why? Because meat workers union members stood up, stood together, and said NO.
You have the right NOT to work on a public holiday, and as a permanent or part time employee, to be PAID for it.
That’s the law. Section 114 (1) of the Fair Work Act 2009 clearly states that workers are “entitled to be absent” on public holidays, and Section 116 explains that “the employer must pay the employee” if they would have worked that day.
This is the point and purpose of public holidays: to give working people time off to relax, to reflect, and to live their lives outside of work. The founders of the trade union movement fought for these conditions — the employers nor the government did not simply give us public holidays.
It is true that under certain circumstances, employers can request that you show up to work on a public holiday – but the request has to be “reasonable”, and it can’t be just “we would like you to keep working”.
“Demanding the factory must keep running, instead of taking your family to respect our fallen dead, is not reasonable in my humble opinion,” says the AMIEU’s Grant Courtney.
Workers rights only mean something when workers stand up for them.
Bindaree Beef wants you to believe that “the operational needs of the business” are more important than your workplace rights. They want you to believe that they can dock your pay if you don’t show up on a public holiday.
They even tried to guilt their employees, by saying that some other people wanted to work on Anzac Day and those people were being deprived of their pay by others who were essentially forcing Bindaree Beef to shut down for the day.
None of this is true. They can’t make you work. They also have to pay every single person who is a permanent or part time employee who would have been rostered on to work that day, so permanent and part time workers cannot miss out. That’s the law.
Workers rights mean nothing if workers don’t stand up for them, and the workers at Bindaree Beef did exactly that – they stood up in the face of an outrageous demand, and the company backed down overnight.
If your rights at work are getting ignored by your employer, talk to the Meat Workers Union today. Contact Justin Smith or Grant Courtney at the union office on (02) 4929 5496.