Dominique Lamb CEO National Retail Association

The long-awaited decision on weekend penalty rates in the retail and hospitality sectors is right around the corner, however the Federal Opposition has reignited debate this week after saying the ALP would move to change the law on the penalty rates, if the decision is to reduce Sunday overtime to the same rate as Saturday’s.

We certainly don’t support another round of government negotiation and media discussion on a decision that should not be politicised.

Penalty rates is, and should always be, an issue for the independent national workplace relations tribunal, the Fair Work Commission, which may hand down its decision around the end of February.

James Pearson, CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), summed it up beautifully this week, asking everyone to wait for the umpire’s decision.

Mr Pearson made the point that employers and representative organisations including the NRA, and including tens of thousands of small business restaurants, cafes, shops and pharmacies, had initiated this case to better balance weekend and public holiday wages, so they could trade on more days and for longer hours, which in turn, would allow them to offer more work to employees.

“Finding the right outcome on penalty rates involves balancing the competing interests of several different groups: existing employees, people looking for work, business operators and consumers,” Mr Pearson said.

Unfortunately however, when governments (on all sides) continue to politicise issues like penalty rates, facts often make way for fiction in the public debate, which serves only to detract from the important business and economic cases, and from allowing SMEs – the engine room of the economy – from getting on with building their businesses, creating jobs and meeting the needs of the community.

Have a great week.

Dominique Lamb