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Locking penalty rates into legislation will lock out small business from Sunday trading, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said today.

James Pearson, CEO of the Australian Chamber, said:

“If the unions have their way, we will soon have a situation where small cafes, restaurants and bars will find it too expensive to open on Sundays to serve their customers, a situation confronted by a number of businesses already.

“The business community is prepared to have a reasonable debate on penalty rates. We are not advocating for their abolition.

“Business supports the Productivity Commission’s findings which show that if Sunday penalty rates are brought into line with Saturday rates, there will be growth in hours worked and jobs growth.

“The fact is, current penalty rates for Sunday work reflect out-dated practices designed for a society and economic conditions of the last century.

“The current regime of high penalties for work performed on Sundays and public holidays is limiting the number of jobs because they have an impact on the operation of many retail and hospitality businesses.

“For many, it has resulted in them not trading on these days or to open for fewer hours than they otherwise would.

“According to Restaurant and Catering Australia, under streamlined and uniform weekend pay rates, 54 per cent of businesses currently not trading on Sundays would open for Sunday trading.

“A further 52 per cent of businesses would take on more workers and larger establishments would employ an extra 4.25 people on average.

“These are compelling figures and they demonstrate that the unions are wrong to want to lock into law outmoded work practices, and lock in the deterrent to work.

“The case for penalty rate reform is clear. Australia’s global competitiveness ranking has fallen from 10th to 21st over the last ten years. On workplace relations we rank below 100th place.

“We need a flexible workforce to drive a 21st century economy. It must be remembered that penalty rates reform is just a small part of what’s needed to make Australia’s workplace relations framework more flexible and competitive.”

“There appears to be some confusion in the Labor Party on the issue of penalty rates. I call on Opposition Leader Shorten to clarify whether he will, as previously stated, accept the independent tribunal’s ruling on penalty rates.

“The Australian Chamber looks forward to the Fair Work Commission’s decision on this important issue.”

For more information:
Jessica Wright | Senior Manager – Media | 0439 429 259