Date: August 4, 2015
The retail sector can become the jobs “engine room” so desperately needed in the Australian economy as mining and manufacturing recede, if government gets the workplace relations settings right.
The National Retail Association today strongly backed the recommendations of the Productivity Commissions inquiry into workplace relations laws, and called on the Abbott Government to adopt the proposed changed.
NRA Chief Executive Officer Trevor Evans said the recommendations around varying penalty rates in the retail sector would lead to a jobs bonanza across the nation, and he called on the government to get on with the job.
“The Abbott Government handed the Productivity Commission the difficult job of setting out a new workplace regime to boost productivity and generate more jobs,” Mr Evans said.
“The Commission has responded with a set of sensible, measured and well-considered recommendations. The government now needs to do its part and put these recommendations into action.”
Mr Evans said consistent feedback from small business employers in the retail sector showed there was no greater obstacle to job creation in retail than the high levels of penalty rates, particularly on Sundays and public holidays.
“Whenever we talk with members about trading conditions, they almost always raise the issue of labour costs on Sundays and public holidays. We can say with certainty there are many thousands of businesses across Australia whose customers want them to open and but whose owners simply can’t afford to pay staff on those days.
“There is a ready workforce, including youth, students and others wanting some additional weekend work, who would jump at the opportunity to work on Sundays, but they are being denied the chance because businesses can’t afford to open.
“So it’s irrefutable that penalty rates, far from helping unskilled workers, are actually hurting their chances of securing work and, for many, gaining a toehold in the workforce for the first time.”
He said it was also becoming increasingly difficult for business owners to compete with on-line shopping, where penalty rates and often basic labour standards did not apply.
“We need to accept that we live in a 24/7 digital world,” Mr Evans said. “If we force the shops closed, all workers will suffer and no amount of penalty rates will compensate for long-term job losses.”
The NRA is part of an industry submission to the Modern Award Review calling for Sunday work to be treated in the same way as Saturdays.
He said evidence produced to the Fair Work Commission showed that neither workers nor shoppers perceived any major difference between Saturdays and Sundays.
“The NRA is not arguing for the abolition of penalty rates, and anyone who attempts to characterise this debate as an attack on workers simply fails to understand that what a worker needs more than anything else is a job.
“We support sensible reform that applies a more realistic penalty rate for Sundays and public holidays, ensuring businesses will open and there will be increased job opportunities.”
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.
Trevor Evans is available for interviews. Contact the NRA media unit on (07) 3240 0163