The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) attended Tuesday’s Australian Industrial Relations Commissions (AIRC) hearings to discuss award modernisation transitional issues.
At the hearings, ARA executive director Russell Zimmerman called for the full five-year transitional period to be utilised when introducing the new retail award.
“Right now, increased wage bills will simply be unsustainable for smaller retailers who have said they will shed staff to cope with the new laws. They need the full transitional period to stagger the impact of increased wage bills over five years,” said Zimmerman.
“Earlier this month, the Australian Fair Pay Commission (AFPC) made a landmark decision to maintain minimum wages at current levels to protect jobs and support stronger economic recovery. The same rationale must be applied to any increase in wage bills as a result of the modern retail award.”
The AFPC recognised increased labour costs wouldn’t be absorbed by retail employers who are only just beginning to recover after over 12 months of reduced consumer demand. The AIRC must follow this lead when considering the five-year phase-in of the average 14 per cent wage bill increase small retailers will face when the modern award is introduced.
“If the full transition period isn’t utilised, retailers will be faced with three options: further casualisation of the retail workforce; shedding staff and reducing weekend trading. The culmination of these alternatives will result in increased job insecurity and a failure to meet consumer demand,” said Zimmerman.
The ARA is particularly concerned about sharp increases to labour costs in areas including casual loadings; changes to retail employment classifications; clothing and laundry allowances; and penalties for ordinary time worked on Sundays.