The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) says it is concerned for the future of the retail industry after the Fair Work Commission awarded what the the Association has branded “an unmanageable” $16 a week increase in the minimum wage last week.

From 1 July 2015, the National Minimum Wage will increase to $656.92 per week, or $17.29 per hour.

Executive Director Russell Zimmerman said the ARA advocated before the tribunal a realistic and manageable minimum wage increase of no more than $5.70 per week for the retail sector.

“We are obviously concerned about the effects this decision will have on retailers,” Mr Zimmerman said.

“Retailers and young Australians have been reliant on pay rates to enable retail to bring on low-skilled young staff and increase their skill levels, reducing youth unemployment.

“Many small to medium enterprise retailers are reliant on a minimum wage workforce, and the announcement today to increase wages during this time of low consumer confidence and low growth will sadly result in further job losses and business closures – a very distressing truth for retailers.

“The minimum wage increase, coupled with weak trade figures and penalty rates, will only cause further damage to retailers who are struggling to keep their heads above water as it is. While interest rates are currently at a record low (with the Reserve Bank of Australia today deciding to keep rates on hold at 2.0 percent) and there is support from the recently released Federal Budget, the retail industry cannot simply keep up with excessive wage increases.

“The ACTU and SDA aren’t about creating jobs and opportunity but they now appear to be on a low productivity/high wages rampage which will only harm retailers and their employees,” Mr Zimmerman said.
Since 1903, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has been the peak industry body since 1903 representing Australia’s $265 billion retail sector, which employs over 1.2 million people.