NRA fights working battle

Published on Tue, 31/01/2012, 02:00:57

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The National Retail Association (NRA) continues to fight a long battle against the shorter minimum work shifts on behalf of young employees.

Fair Work Australia (FWA) last year varied the General Retail Industry Award to allow 1.5 hour shifts exclusively for secondary students.

However, the Shop Assistants Union tried to overturn this decision by appealing to a Full Bench of Fair Work Australia. When the Union failed in this, they appealed to the Federal Court of Australia, which will hear the case on Wednesday in Melbourne.

Gary Black, NRA executive director, said the initial decision reached by Fair Work Australia was the best solution.

“A successful appeal against the ruling to allow minimum 90-minute shifts for young workers will see the end of after school jobs and hurt retailers who will be forced to employ older workers who are available for longer shifts that start before school gets out,” he said.

The ruling the NRA is seeking to uphold includes conditions on who is eligible to work for the minimum shift, effectively protecting their rights and minimising the potential for exploitation of the Australian workforce.

Under the proposed change to the General Retail Industry Award, the FWA stated that the employee must be a full time high-school student, the work can only occur between 3.00pm and 6.30pm on a normal school day and the employee and their guardian must consent to the shorter period of work.

Additionally, the minimum shift may only be rostered when the employer is unable to offer a longer shift due to limited opening hours or because the employee is unavailable.

“If the union is successful in preventing minimum 1.5 hour shifts, it will rob school kids of a chance to participate in the workforce and negatively affect retailers such as newsagents and grocers who are only open until early evening,” Black said.

“Overturning FWA’s decision will inevitably result in young and vulnerable staff being laid off and denied work, particularly in regional areas where low-margin retail businesses simply cannot afford to pay for three hours’ work when only one and a half hours is required.”


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