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Message from the CEO, Dominique Lamb: 20 March 2018

March 20, 2018

When you argue for a 0 per cent rise in the minimum wage, you’re likely to attract a fair share of criticism, and over the past seven days, we certainly have.

But in making such a controversial submission to the Annual Wage Review last week, we also brought an important conversation to the fore, highlighting just how difficult the retail environment really is right now.

In previous years, we’ve recommended wage rises higher than any other employer group.

We have taken great pride in being one of the most understanding and supportive organisations in seeking a percentage increase that was a true compromise between all parties, that would enable our industry to succeed, grow the economy and employ as many Australians as possible.

Our recommendation this year reflects the very difficult nature of Australian retail right now, and is a direct result of the feedback you’ve given us.

Retailers are struggling with soaring electricity costs, increasing wholesale prices and the threat of a Federal Labor Government that wants to use the Parliament to force up penalty rates – an extraordinary intervention in what is supposed to be an independent process.

At the same time, consumers are becoming far more price sensitive, and can access a wider range of retail goods from around the world. 

They don’t have to accept price rises from Australian retailers driven by increased operating costs, because they can get what they want, when they want, and at a price they want, from overseas retailers who are not contributing to the Australian economy or creating jobs for Australians.

It’s easy for the ACTU to throw out a figure of 7.2 per cent increase, even though it’s something that is completely out of touch with the modern retail landscape and impossible for an employer to entertain.   

A crippling increase such as this may make sense to those who have never owned or run a business.

But for those who devote countless hours to navigating complex HR systems and Payroll Tax and employer obligations and superannuation; for those who do their BAS payments while everyone else is asleep and then get up early to do their daily bookwork before their staff have even woken up, who fork out for expensive shop fit-outs and rent payments that would buy a monthly overseas holiday, and who are able to provide jobs for others, only by risking theirs and their family’s own financial futures – this is a figure that is unreasonable, to say the least.

Wage increases like this hit business owners– those already doing it incredibly tough, who are confronting unprecedentedly difficult trading conditions, and who are already crying out for help.

The fact is, a $50 per staffer per week wage increase would mean a small business with just 10 employees would need to find an extra $26,000 per year!

The only plausible outcome from such a preposterous increase would be business all over Australia having to reduce staff numbers and offer fewer shifts – in which case everyone loses.

Thank you for giving us your feedback on this incredibly important issue – we will continue to advocate on your behalf to the powers-that-be, to make sure your voices are heard.

Have a great week.

Dominique Lamb, CEO. 

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