The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is campaigning for changes to the Fair Work Act that would reverse “the casualisation of jobs”.
The organisation is pushing for two key changes to the Act: a “proper” definition of casual work, and the option for casual workers to convert to permanent positions after six months of regular work with one employer.
However, with the retail industry employing more than 10 per cent of the total working population, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) executive director Russell Zimmerman said restricting casual employment would bring further challenges to retailers who already face a difficult operating environment.
He said he believes retailers would be happy to offer a fixed number of hours to part-time employees, but that flexibility is needed in the sector.
“If the unions want permanent employment, then we would need to see more flexibility around the hours of work and the notification period of roster changes for part-time employees,” he said.
“Under the current General Retail Industry Award (GRIA) retailers are restricted in their ability to offer additional hours to part-time employees, and must provide part-time employees seven days’ written notice if there will be any changes to the roster.”
Zimmerman said the ARA understands from various retailers that the majority of casual staff enjoy the flexibility in choosing their own hours, and would like to maintain their casual loading as casual staff are adequately compensated for their type of employment.
“With unpredictable trading hours in the industry, retailers need to be able to add hours to staff without paying overtime penalties, especially during busy trading periods like Christmas.
“Last minute changes always arise in retail and if retailers need to provide their staff seven days’ notice for each change to the roster, the sector will begin to suffer.
“With ongoing challenges affecting the retail industry and rising energy costs, small and medium retailers will not have the capability to give the required notice to part-time employees and would then end up staffing their stores themselves.”
A version of this story originally appeared on Giftguide.