Wage theft laws

The National Retail Association (NRA) has today called for the annual wage review to be deferred, saying now was not the time to be thinking about increasing the cost of employing people.

At a time where businesses are laying off thousands of workers nationwide, NRA Chief Executive Officer Dominique Lamb said there was no way that retailers could sustain any increased cost pressure in the foreseeable future.

And she said the Expert Panel that reviews the minimum wage could not possibly access accurate data to inform a decision about the right level for an annual increase at this time.

“The economic freefall now confronting the nation shows no signs of bottoming out, even with the fiscal shock responses currently being implemented in Australia and around the world,” Ms Lamb said.

“We are seeing business collapsing right across Australia. We are seeing unemployment queues out the door of Centrelink offices and snaking around the block.

“Pubs, clubs and restaurants have been forced to close their doors, and we are seeing thousands of staff laid off from hospitality and food retailers across the nation.

“Those businesses large enough to survive are also shedding staff at a rapid rate in order to do so.

“In this environment, retail business owners cannot possibly absorb a wage increase. Indeed, even the consideration of increasing wages at this point is merely adding more trauma and stress to what is already an extraordinarily difficult business environment for many small operators.

“The annual wage review must be delayed, so we can get a clear picture of the true impact of coronavirus on businesses and the economy.”

Ms Lamb said many businesses were doing their best to maintain their staff levels, but additional wages costs would undoubtedly be the tipping point for many.

“If retailers are forced to increase wages while their revenue and customer base fall apart, the only possible outcomes is that they will be forced to lay off staff who might otherwise survive.”

And while large supermarkets may appear to be doing well out of consumer purchasing, they represented only a small per centage of employment and most generally worked on Enterprise Bargaining Agreements which would not be affected by an increase in the minimum wage.

“Without doubt, the vast majority of retailers are hurting very badly. We call on the Expert Panel not to hurt them – and their employees – any further.

“This decision needs to be deferred until we can get sensible and accurate data about what has happened in the economy.”