Peak retail industry body the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) strongly disagree with union claims that suggest the majority of Australians ‘overwhelmingly oppose’ the ARA’s fight to reduce penalty rates.
ARA Executive Director Russell Zimmerman said the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) release of statistics from pro-union research company Essential Research proves little other than that its case works against common sense when it comes to doing business.
“The ARA recognises the need for the minimum safety net in the retail industry to include compensation for work performed on weekends and public holidays. The ARA has never advocated for the complete abolishment of penalty rates - what the ARA wants to see is a fair and reasonable set of conditions in the retail industry that balance the needs of employees against the sustainability of retail business.
"The ARA has recognised there is a need to compensate employees for out of ordinary hours of work, but not at the rates advocated by the ACTU which mean businesses can't open or employ additional staff on the weekend.
“The ARA strongly advocates for a change to the Sunday penalty rate applicable to the retail industry. Research commissioned by the ARA demonstrates that employees and employers both think the current double time penalty is too high.
“Retailers, who because of consumer demand need to open on Sundays, are forced to pay the same penalty rate to employees as would apply to childcare, banking and finance, legal services and commercial sales employees in the unlikely event that they ever worked on a Sunday. The ridiculous nature of this is amplified when you consider that industries with trading requirements similar to the retail industry (fast food, restaurants, hotels, clubs etc) pay lower penalty rates on Sundays than the retail industry.
The ARA hopes that the ACTU will listen to those it purports to represent and consider supporting a sustainable and fair reduction in the Sunday penalty applicable to retail businesses,” Mr Zimmerman said.
The Monash University study, Sunday Trading in Australia Research Report, covered the views of almost 600 employees in the retail industry and found the balance between employment and remuneration would be made right through review and reduction of penalty rates.
The research shows people rely on the retail industry to be able to work during hours that suit them. Reducing penalty rates would both increase and guarantee these hours.
Key findings of the Sunday Trading in Australia Research Report were:
Retail is challenged: By a range of consumer and marketplace trends including online retail, increased consumer desire for 24/7 convenience, consumer knowledge power and increased savings levels
Sunday trade is generally strong: Accounting for 10 to 25 percent of weekly trade. However, this figure varies significantly depending on a range of factors, i.e. store location.
But is not always profitable: Due to higher labour costs, Sunday can trade at a loss. In that the increase in trade for Sunday is not always sufficient to offset wage increases.
Sunday employment: While increased pay is the key benefit of working a Sunday, flexibility is also an important driver for Sunday work. Interestingly, a third of retail employees would not work on a Sunday, despite a double time penalty rate.
Since 1903, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has been the peak industry body representing Australia’s $258 billion retail sector, which employs over 1.2 million people. The ARA ensures retail success by informing, protecting, advocating, educating and saving money for its 5,000 independent and national retail members throughout Australia.