The National Retail Association (NRA) said today’s 2.5 per cent national minimum wage increase did not reflect the reality of employment and business conditions for Australian retailers.
NRA CEO Trevor Evans said the increase awarded was particularly disappointing in an environment where youth unemployment is growing at an alarming rate.
“At a time when the Australian retail industry is only just returning to average sales growth on the back of a long period of incredibly challenging times, today’s increase will only hinder businesses,” Mr Evans said.
“Australian business owners are already dealing with some of the highest wages in the world, in addition to irregular shop leasing agreements, which vary from state to state, causing confusion and adding unnecessary costs and regulatory burden to retailers.
“This decision is even more concerning given that the Commission acknowledged concerns about suppressed economic growth and rising unemployment.
“Many businesses will be held back from increasing staff numbers or hours, amid the often unavoidable trade-off between jobs and wage increases that aren’t strongly linked to productivity or efficiency gains.
“It comes at a time when retail employers are facing unprecedented competition from online, overseas-based retailers,” he said.
The 2.5 per cent increase will be applied to industry awards including those covering the retail, fast food and the hair and beauty sectors.
“This policy decision could be damaging for businesses, workers and consumers, considering the uncertainty of the sector’s performance in recent times.
“Coupled with other cost burdens, the rise could end up having the opposite of its desired effect by leading to an overall reduction in employment levels, leaving some workers worse off in the long run.”
The NRA is Australia’s largest and most diverse retail industry organisation, and has been representing the interests of the retail, fast food and broader service sector for almost 100 years.