The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) says the Rudd Government’s proposed new industrial relations laws would force many small retailers to close their doors.

ARA executive director Richard Evans said the proposed bill discriminates heavily against small business.

“Small business is not equipped to cope with the new industrial relations system, including an average retail wage bill increases between 11-22 per cent. The limitations of SMEs, including small retailers, have not been considered in the final drafting of the Fair Work Bill.

“We have to consider the combined effect of the National Employment Standards, the new modern retail award, the Fair Work Bill and an environment of economic instability. Retailers will now be confronted with an industrial relations environment which pays lip service to employer rights and provides unprecedented power to unions who may have no union members in a retail establishment – this will drive up direct and indirect labour costs and close small retailers unable to create wealth for the economy under the new system,” said Evans.

Fair Work Australia’s ultimate ability to determine the terms and conditions of employment is a costly load for SME retailers who are already expecting to have higher wage bills and payroll obligations with the new modern retail award, according to Evans. In fact, the ARA anticipates a real increase in SME retail wage bills brought about by the new modern awards (average of 14 per cent or $28,500 nationally) and a wages breakout as implied by union leaders as a result of the Fair Work Bill.

“The 1.5 million employees in the retail sector who are mostly un-unionised are not working for mass employers. We’re mostly talking about SMEs who are not equipped, resourced or informed enough to be able to cope with the new expectations and obligations imposed upon them as a result of the constant changes in workplace laws.

Evans added that retailers create jobs – full-time jobs, part-time jobs and casual jobs – and provide most Australians with their first job.

“Retailers create wealth for the economy driven by consumer demand and they need flexibility in their workforce to meet this demand.

“The one size fits all approach to the Fair Work Bill is old-world thinking skewed towards the practices of large employers and ignores this need for flexibility within a small retail business. Coupled with union demands on bigger employers the bill will close many local stores – opportunity for employment will be lost and only less risk taking retailers will enter the market,” said Evans.