Dominique Lamb CEO National Retail Association

In everything that your association does for the retail industry, we have the interests of our members, and all retailers, as our top priority.  This has been particularly true throughout the Fair Work Commission hearings in relation to Sunday penalty rates, and it remains true as that issue continues towards its conclusion.  First we listen to you, our members, and then we act on your advice.

There has been a lot of commentary about the Commission’s decision last month to rationalise weekend penalty rates across the retail and hospitality sectors.  Much of the commentary has been ill-informed, and you can be certain that your association will continue to try to cut through with the truth of the matter. And the truth is simply that returning penalty rates to a more reasonable, affordable level will lead to job creation in our sector.

The Commission is now turning its attention to how the adjustment in penalty rates should be implemented.  The NRA made recommendations to the Commission last week, on behalf of our members and – most importantly – after listening to your views on how this will affect your employees.  We are mindful that many employees are likely to have believed many of the mistruths being spread about the decision – most notably that their pay packets are about to be slashed all in one fell swoop.

To ease these concerns, the NRA has recommended a two-step phase in, with half the changes to take effect on July 1 this year, and half to take effect 12 months later.  Because these payments coincide with the annual wage review, the impact on employees’ take-home pay will be minimised.

However, phasing in the change over two years (as opposed to three or four) will have the added benefit of unlocking additional employment opportunities and business profitability in a shorter period.  We believe this will result in longer trading hours, extension of services and increased work hours for employees on Sundays.  Extra work will arise not only from the reduction in labour costs, but also from the fact that small business owners will financially be able to take time off on Sundays where once they’d have worked in their businesses to reduce wage costs.

A longer phasing-in arrangement would restrict employers from reaping these benefits, and prevent the Australian economy from growth.  The Commission also asked for submissions on whether a longer period of adjustment was required for the Retail Award in particular.

The NRA has argued that having inconsistent transitional arrangements for different modern awards would simply lead to more complication for employers, negating the likely job-creation benefits of the original decision.  And no doubt those opponents of the original decision would use any uncertainty about the phase-in period to create even more fear and misunderstanding among workers.

Again, this was the view that was put to us by our members.  I thank you for your comments and feedback in recent weeks.  I’m proud that the NRA listens to our members and takes their views to the national stage, rather than simply telling members what we think they should hear.  The full submission is available here.

Have a great week.

Dominique Lamb