The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) said the simplified draft retail award handed down by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) has ignored Minister for Workplace Relations Julia Gillard’s objectives for modernisation. 

ARA executive director Richard Evans said the new retail award’s focus on simplification and rationalisation failed to answer retailers’ call for a penalty rate structure recognising the modern deregulated retail market.

“The ARA’s submission to the AIRC strongly recommended a retail award (for 1.2 million employees) should reflect community demand for deregulated shopping hours by producing penalty rate structures within the context of a seven-day, 24-hour trade period – but this has been ignored. The penalty rate structure in the draft award is reminiscent of the 1960’s regulated market of Monday to Friday working weeks. This is not flexible enough for the modern retail market,” said Evans.

The modern consumer wants seven day trade, and in some cases, 24-hour shopping access, according to Evans, and a retailer should not be penalised for being open to meet consumer demand, but under the current structure for penalty rates they are.

“Penalty rates such as overtime and loadings should take effect after prescribed working hours and not prescribed days. Why should someone flipping burgers on a Sunday get paid more than someone doing the same job on a Monday?

Evans added that the ARA’s call for rostering over a 12-month period rather than the current four-week structure was also dismissed, disregarding the seasonality of the retail sector.

“The ARA will now work with retailers and the industry groups that have been considered under the draft to be part of the retail award (including pharmacies, hair and beauty salons, butchers, bakeries and take-away food and video stores) to respond to AIRC the within the two week deadline.”