Charlestown hairdresser Carrie Gedney says she will avoid having to make some tough decisions about her family's budget after helping her colleagues secure an important win on penalty rates.
Hair Stylists Australia, with backing from the Australian Workers Union, has won a two-year battle to protect hairdressers' and barbers' Sunday and public holiday penalty loadings.
Employer group Hair And Beauty Australia had sought to reduce Sunday penalties from 200 to 150 per cent and public holiday loadings from 250 to 225 per cent, arguing that the "disutility" of working on Sundays was "much less than times past".
The case followed a commission ruling in 2017 to cut penalty rates for retail, hospitality and pharmacy workers.
In that decision, the full bench of the commission questioned the level of penalty and casual rates in the Hair and Beauty Award.
But, in its ruling this month, the commission accepted the unions' argument that female-dominated hair styling was more akin to carpentry, plumbing and other trades than retail and hospitality work.
Ms Gedney, who has worked on Sundays for many years, said the decision was an acknowledgement of the training required to become a hair stylist, even if it was still a lowly paid job.
"It was a big relief that we weren't going to go lower down, because we're already fairly low-paid," she said.
"I think it's a great conclusion, because we do have a trade.
"For me, having done by hairdressing 30 years ago, I did have to do an apprenticeship like a plumber or an electrician or a carpenter.
"Being a female-dominated industry, we are lower-paid.
"I suppose us working in the shopping centres they were trying to put us in the category of retailers, which we're not."
The hourly rate for hairdressers is $22.70, which rises to $45.40 on Sundays.
AWU national secretary Daniel Walton said workers were grateful the commission had "seen the unfairness in the case".
"Hairdressers do an apprenticeship just like electricians, plumbers and carpenters but end up earning far less than these male-dominated trades," he said.
Ms Gedney, who gave evidence at the commission in August in Sydney, said the proposed changes would have cost her $80 a week.
"If I lost those penalty rates, I'd have to cut my budget somewhere, because I'm by myself and have two children.
"It would probably mean less leisure activities for the kids. That adds up for us.
"It was nearly $80 a week, which is $320 a month, which is for me another mortgage repayment on our home.
"That's the way I look at it. I couldn't pay extra off the mortgage.
"I don't have to worry so much and struggle."