Hairdressers organise to fight wage cuts

NCH NEWS. Mayfield hairdresser Melanie Coombes from Bliss Hair Artists in New Lambton is outraged over deregulation of the industry, claiming it will lead to a rash of backyard operations. Pictured in Mayfield. 17th July 2016. NCH. Pic by MAX MASON-HUBERS MMH Photo: Max Mason-HubersA new union for hairdressers is gearing up to fight a threatened clip to their weekend penalty rates, with Newcastle hairdresser Melanie Coombs saying they already get “paid peanuts”.


The hairdresser of nine years said she is “absolutely furious” at the threat to weekend penalty rates.

“We already get paid peanuts as it is,” she said. “We are already one of the lowest paying industries and they want to take away our penalty rates.

“We already struggle to pay our bills. Hairdressers all across the country are going to be furious when they find out about this.”

The Australian Industry Group said on Thursday it has filed an expression of interest to the Fair Work Commission for a review of weekend penalty rates in the hair and beauty industry.

Ai Group chief executive, Innes Willox, said his organisation will represent hair and beauty industry employers in a review of penalty rates under the Hair and Beauty Industry Award 2010.

“In its penalty rates decision, the Fair Work Commission Full Bench expressed its intention to review weekend penalty rates in the Hair and Beauty Industry Award 2010 and invited expressions of interest from any employer association prepared to represent employers in the case,” Mr Willox said.

The Fair Work Commission last month decided to reduce Sunday penalty rates in the retail and hospitality industries. ‘Soft target’

Australian Workers Union National Secretary Daniel Walton said business lobbyists may “assume hairdressers are a soft target, but I think they’re going to get a rude shock”.

“Hairdressers are tired of being pushed around and they’re organising and standing up,” he said.

“Wage theft is already rampant in the hair and beauty industry. It is unconscionable that anyone would want to slash hairdresser wages further.”

The traditionally “blokey” Australian Workers Union is now establishing a new female-dominated union for hairdressers called Hair Stylists Australia.

At its annual conference earlier this month, the AWU passed a resolution to trial an alternative model of union organising in the hair dressing industry which represents more than 60,000 mostly female workers.

The AWU resolution said its research suggested many hairdressers were interested in joining a union.

“Hair stylists need our help,” the resolution said. “They have industrial issues that would benefit greatly from an active union presence such as enforcement of award conditions, meal breaks, underpayments and superannuation guarantees.”

The AWU has been signing up members, many of whom are aged 16 to 45, by engaging them on Facebook.

In responses to AWU focus groups, hairdressers have complained that they are increasingly being treated as independent contractors with some required to rent a chair or space in a salon instead of being paid a wage. Some who receive wages reported they were not receiving any penalty rates on weekends.