Retailers say ‘defer modern award, we can’t afford wage rises’

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Retailers say ‘defer modern award, we can’t afford wage rises’

The Australian Retailers Association wants the Modern Retail Award to be deferred for 12 months because retailers cannot afford wage rises in the current economic climate.

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The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) wants the Modern Retail Award to be deferred for 12 months because retailers cannot afford wage rises in the current economic climate.
 
The new modern award is due to come into operation on 1 January 2010, and will bring with it increases in casual rates and shift penalties because various state and federal awards are being amalgamated.
 
65% will sack workers
 
ARA executive director Richard Evans said in the current economic climate increased wage bills would force over 65% of SME (small to medium) retailers to shed staff.
 
The 65% figure is based on a poll of ARA members in March.
 
Evans said retailers have accepted changes to IR laws including the Fair Work Bill coming into play in July — which is a different view than that taken by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which wants the new laws deferred until 1 January next year.
 
Economic uncertainty
 
However, Evans said that with economic uncertainty and pressure increasing, retailers will not cope with any award increases in January next year and the ARA wants them deferred until 1 January 2011.
 
‘With unemployment at 5.7% and rising, retailers don’t need the pressure of increased labour costs which will force many to cut jobs,’ Evans said.
 
‘We’re now calling on IR Minister Julia Gillard to defer the introduction of the Modern Retail Award for at least 12 months.
 
Financial planning
 
‘Retailers need certainty from the Government about any increases to wage bills now, to assist with their cash flow and financial planning while budgets are being finalised.’
 
Evans said working families struggling to run small retail shops will need at least 12 months before they are better placed to manage wage increases without shedding staff, depending on the economic outlook.
 
‘No other economy in the world is introducing new labour laws in the context of the global financial crisis and retailers need certainty and stability before they can cope with wage increases,’ Evans said.
 
‘They simply cannot afford another blow in this tightening economic climate.’
 
Need stability in Budget
 
The ARA has also called for the Rudd Government to focus on jobs and strategies to keep prices low in the Federal Budget to be brought down on 12 May.
 
Evans said employment stability is the key to domestic economic recovery and the Rudd Government’s second budget must provide leadership and strategy to encourage employers to maintain and grow their workforce.
 
‘Employers need support from government to overcome the reduction in consumer demand over the past 12 months,’ he said.
 
‘They don’t need increased taxes and compliance costs from budget announcements. Any increase in taxes will mean increases in prices and the community cannot sustain price increases before economic recovery.’
 
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