PC recommendations to ease pressures on retail businesses

22 DECEMBER, 2015: The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) says the Productivity Commission’s recommendations on penalty rates will strengthen the retail economy and ensure a robust and relevant future industry for both retailers and staff.

Yesterday’s recommendations support independent retail industry research that points to the need for penalty rates to be set at an economically viable level to support further retail and economic growth and more jobs.

ARA research conducted by Monash University’s Australian Centre for Retail Studies (ACRS), illustrates the majority of employees are happy to work at time and a half, with just a three percent increase in participation above time and a half rates.

The ARA is the only retail industry body, along with the Master Grocers Association, funding a case currently before the Fair Work Commission (FWC). The ARA is firmly of the opinion that this case will influence a reduction in retail penalty rates to a more viable level to create more jobs.

ARA Executive Director, Russell Zimmerman, said that while a reduction in penalty rates will create a more equitable balance of repatriation based on changes in shopper behaviours, the complete removal of penalty rates would be unreasonable and impracticable.

“Far from this being a grab by businesses for cash, retailers will in fact be spending the same amount in order to offer retail workers more labour hours and create further jobs, which will lead to more money in employee’s pockets,” Mr Zimmerman said.

The ARA is also in strong support of the report’s recommendations for an increase in the maximum term of Enterprise Agreements from four to five years, along with a softening of the procedural requirements of bargaining, particularly in regards to Notices of Employee Representational Rights.

“The FWC should be given the discretion to overlook procedural defects if there is no risk to employees in doings so,” said Mr Zimmerman.

“In some instances, one small error has caused an agreement that a significant majority of employees have voted in favour of, and provided for rates of pay far in excess of the relevant Award, being rejected, which is counterproductive and prohibitive to the overall process.”

Independent research commissioned by the ARA shows:

·         Most retail employees are happy to work on Sundays for penalty rates below the current double time and a half;

·         Most employees see no real difference between Saturdays and Sundays;

·         Retail employees choose to work on Sundays because it suits them;

·         Retail employees complain of being overworked on Sundays because their employer reduces staff numbers;

·         Retail employers will offer more hours to employees if penalty rates are reduced;

·         Most retail employees to have given evidence in the penalty rates case would only need to work an extra hour on a Sundays to break even.

Mr Zimmerman said he was pleased to hear comments by former ACTU boss, Martin Ferguson, who also welcomed the recommendations of the Productivity Commission. Mr Ferguson argues that penalty rates are “excessive” on Sundays and public holidays.

“It is important to remember that the FWC and the increase of Sunday penalty rates to double time was instigated by Julia Gillard in her time as Employment Relations Minister, along with the unions.

“The FWC, in which our case is currently being heard, is the very mechanism that was set up by Labor and the unions to review penalty rates, however, Labor has urged that the Government should override this.

“The ARA is of the belief that penalty rate decisions should remain the responsibility of Fair Work as an independent arbitrator,” Mr Zimmerman said.

ARA Executive Director, Russell Zimmerman, is available for interviews. Call the ARA media team on 0439 612 556 or emailmedia@retail.org.au.

-ENDS-

About the Australian Retailers Association:
Founded in 1903, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is the retail industry’s peak representative body representing Australia’s $284 billion sector, which employs more than 1.2 million people. The ARA works to ensure retail success by informing, protecting, advocating, educating and saving money for its 5,000 independent and national retail members throughout Australia. For more information, visit www.retail.org.auor call 1300 368 041.

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