Union delegates have converged on Bendigo this morning to highlight the need to keep penalty rates.
About 60 delegates from a range of unions met at Bendigo Trades Hall Council to voice concerns over the threat to remove weekend pay rates in industries such as hospitality and retail.
The conference revolved around a recent bill put to the senate by Independent MP Nick Xenophon proposing small businesses be exempt from paying extra on weekends.
Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) President Ged Kearney told the conference it would mean "a disaster" for regional centres.
Ms Kearney said small businesses were major employers in Bendigo and surrounding regions, and the local economy would be hurt if workers' incomes were reduced.
"It would have flow-on effects for the whole community," she said.
Labor candidate for Bendigo and United Voices Union official, Lisa Chesters said it was an issue she would continue to pursue.
"Removing penalty and weekend rates would be the start of a slippery slope for worker rights," she said.
The Victorian Regional Trades and Labour Council Organising Conference is the first event bringing regional delegates from across Victoria together.