Draft modern awards don’t reflect modern workforce: ARA, ACCI

Posted by Isobel Drake on 12th September 2008

The simplified draft award handed down by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) today will increase cost pressure on employers, according to the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) and the Australian Retailers Association (ARA).

The ACCI, the peak council of Australian businesses, contends that the proposed new rules are not consistent with the Government’s direction that the creation of modern awards “is not intended to… increase costs for employers.”

Retail industry body the ARA has claimed the new retail award’s focus on simplification and rationalisation failed to answer retailers’ call for a penalty rate structure recognising the modern deregulated retail market. “Minister Gillard’s call for modernisation has been sacrificed for a more conservative simplification and rationalisation outcome,” Executive Director Richard Evans said. “Modern workplaces, modern consumer demands and modern workforce arrangements have not been acknowledged in the draft award.”

“The ARA’s submission to the AIRC strongly recommended a retail award (for 1.2 million employees) should reflect community demand for deregulated shopping hours by producing penalty rate structures within the context of a seven day / 24 hour trade period – but this has been ignored,” Mr Evans added. “The modern consumer wants seven day trade, and in some cases, 24 hour shopping access. Retail is very competitive and driven by consumer demand. A retailer should not be penalised for being open to meet consumer demand, but under the current structure for penalty rates they are.

Mr Evans suggested that penalty rates should take effect after set times and not on set days. “Why should someone flipping burgers on a Sunday get paid more than someone doing the same job on a Monday?” He queried.

The ACCI advised employers across Australia to take today’s developments seriously because modern awards will set mandatory wages and conditions across industries from 2010. Unlike current law, new businesses will be forced to comply with this expanded award system, as well as the government’s new universal employment standards.

“We are concerned that the AIRC is being asked to make too many far-reaching changes to the award system, in too short a space of time, and with competing and conflicting goals,” the ACCI said in a statement.

The ACCI list of concerns arising from the draft awards include:

  • Imposing compulsory redundancy pay on small business, despite government policy to exempt businesses of less than 15 employees;
  • Dual regulation of employment conditions in areas where government is already intending to legislate on the same topic;
  • Re-imposing rules that used to be in awards but which were removed in the 1990s (such as mandatory employee and union consultation on workplace change); and
  • Increasing costs of employment by merging different provisions between awards in different states and amalgamating different awards into smaller numbers.”
  • The ACCI and the ARA are now going to work with employers and industry groups to form a response to the proposals.

    A statement from the AIRC regarding the proposed modern award can be accessed at: www.airc.gov.au/awardmod/databases/general/decisions/2008aircfb717.htm