MOVES to entrench payment of penalty rates will cost jobs and hurt the economy, Tasmanian employers say.
A plan by Prime Minister Julia Gillard, announced last week, to insert penalty rate requirements in the Fair Work Act has been rejected by the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which will fight the move.
Chamber chief executive Michael Bailey said yesterday the Prime Minister's plan defied the wishes of employers and many employees, so she should consult before making any changes.
But Unions Tasmania secretary Kevin Harkins said employees were already entitled to penalty rates, so the move would just formalise what was already the law.
Mr Harkins said most employees regarded Saturday and Sunday as different to other days of the week, so they should be compensated if they worked on the weekend.
He also questioned the emphasis on penalty rates - he said wages were a cost of doing business, just like electricity.
Mr Bailey said the traditional 9-5 working week from Monday to Friday was changing and many people wanted to work outside those hours, but penalty rates stopped businesses from opening.
He said in Tasmania, penalty rates were one of the greatest barriers to extended business hours, and hospitality was hit particularly hard.
Mr Bailey said tourists constantly complained that few hospitality businesses were open on weekends or public holidays, which was bad for the state's image and meant less work for employees.
Seaport developer Errol Stewart said penalty rates were "killing regional Australia".
Mr Stewart said penalty rates were unfair - instead of paying double time or more for weekend work, a 10 or 15 per cent loading would be more appropriate.
He said the traditional working week had been replaced by people wanting greater access to services and an acceptance of after-hours work.
Tasmanian Hospitality Association general manager Steve Old said penalty rates stopped many businesses opening after hours and the system needed to be reviewed.