Retailers push for short casual shifts for students

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 6th May 2010

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) and Master Grocers Australia will today appear at a Fair Work Australia hearing in Melbourne, seeking a ruling to reduce the minimum casual shift from three hours to two hours.

The ARA is seeking to have the minimum shift reduced for casual workers, stating that this would allow high school students to work between finishing school at around 3:30pm and close of business at 5:30pm.

ARA Deputy Executive Director Jennifer Cromarty said hours for permanent part-time workers would not be affected and that retailers were simply asking for the ability to employ school students on a casual basis who wanted to work for a couple of hours after school.

“At the moment retailers are being forced to turn students away because they can’t find the time to work the minimum of three hours required under the new General Retail Award,” she said.

“It is only logical that minimum hours for casual workers should be reduced to a nationally-consistent two hour shift,” Cromarty said.

Jos de Bruin of the Master Grocers Association said the reduced shifts were particularly important for supermarkets in regional Australia, where early closing times are more common than in metropolitan areas.

“IGA Boort [in northern Victoria] just doesn’t employ students, because they close at 6pm and they can’t make the minimum three hour shift,” he said.

De Bruin said the push was about flexibility and not about cheaper labour.  “It’s important to have a balance of your wage percentages – if you ask people where their first job was, it would be in supermarkets or some kind of retail.  Casual employees are often taking shifts that others don’t want anyway – it takes some of the heat off owner-operator small businesses,” he said.

Under the General Retail Industry Award, a 15-year-old working a two-hour casual shift at minimum wage as a Retail Employee Level 1 would be paid $16.86.

A decision is expected from Fair Work Australia some time in the next two weeks.