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Articles from INDUSTRY ASSOCIATIONS (263 Articles)

Young workers are set to suffer as a result of Fair Work's decision
Young workers are set to suffer as a result of Fair Work's decision

Three-hour retail shift battle continues

Fair Work Australia’s decision to uphold minimum three-hour shifts in the retail sector after a second appeal has angered industry bodies.
Retail associations are in uproar over Fair Work’s dismissal of their latest appeal. The move was regarded as a blow to retailers, particularly smaller business who often employed students for two-hour shifts to cover the end of a working day.

Casuals in Victoria, junior casuals in South Australia and student casuals in Western Australia have been most affected by the decision. In Tasmania, the new rules actually reduced the minimum shift requirement that was already in place, from four to three.

Casuals in other states have been unaffected because state laws required minimum three-hour shifts before the awards modernisation came into effect on January 1 this year.

Australian Retail Association (ARA) executive director Russell Zimmerman said the decision had disappointed retailers across the country.

“The decision affects everyone across the board but the smaller businesses will feel it more than others. It is detrimental to the employers who can’t afford to employ people for three hours,” he explained.

National Retail Association (NRA) Executive Director Gary Black echoed Zimmerman’s views and further highlighted retailers’ dissatisfaction with the Modern Awards.

“The decision highlights the flaws in the one-size-fits-all modern award process and the inflexibility that results,” he said.

Black added that the decision did not honour Julia Gillard’s promise that employers would not be worse off after the modernisation process.

Despite the furore, the decision has been lauded as a win for casual workers by Fair Work and the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).

Fair Work defended its decision by saying anything less than a three-hour minimum shift would undermine casual employees who would have to work for shorter periods, receive less pay and travel at the same costs.

The ACTU supported the Fair Work decision. ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said the decision would protect the wages of hundreds of thousands of casual workers around Australia.

“[Short shifts] are particularly unfair for workers who have to travel a long way to attend work, or who have to make childcare arrangements,” Lawrence said.

“Allowing students to work short shifts in the afternoon would also undercut the position of day workers (mostly working mums), whose shifts might be cut back in favour of students working at lower rates.”

According to ARA statistics however, 55 per cent of retailers employ school students for short shifts between approximately 3pm and the close of business. 55 per cent also said they would stop employing students to work after school after the recent reinforcement of three-hour minimum shifts.

Besides its effect on retailers, Zimmerman said the decision was detrimental to student casuals and working mums. Students would not have the opportunity to “gain their first foothold in the door of retail” if employers could not employ them for two hours and working mums in retail would suffer if their employers required them to stay until 5.30pm everyday.

ARA initially challenged the Modern Awards’ minimum three-hour shift requirement in March. The application was rejected in July and the ARA again launched an appeal application in August.

Zimmerman said that he would consider all the options and views of members before possibly launching another appeal. He took heart from the fact that Fair Work said they would be “willing to accept minimum shift requirements for student casuals”.

Black said he would launch a new application to “fight against the failings in the current law”.

The NRA is set to launch its appeal in early December.

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