Retailers, newsagents and restaurateurs have warned that hundreds of jobs will be lost when the Rudd Government’s Fair Work industrial relations regime is introduced.
The employer groups say the new Fair Work bill and the new “modern retail award”, which will also be introduced in the next 12 months, will lead to sharp wage increases in states where award wages are lower than the comparable national awards.
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The Australian Retailers Association has released a survey claiming 65% of its members will shed workers as a result of the introduction of the Fair Work bill and a new retail award, while a staggering 82% will be forced to restructure their workforce in some away.
ARA executive director Richard Evans has urged the Government to delay the introduction Fair Work bill (slated for July) and the modern retail award (slated for the start of 2010) by 12 months.
“No other economy in the world is introducing new labour laws in the context of the global financial crisis, and this Government policy is fraught with danger to the retail sector,” Evans says.
“We must consider the combined effect of the modern retail award, the Fair Work bill and an environment of economic instability. Today retailers have clearly indicated the effect will be less jobs, and retail shop closures.”
Evans’s warning of job losses has been echoed by the Queensland Newsagents Federation, which has warned that up to one third of newsagent staff in that state could be sacked, with wages set to soar by up to 31% under new retail award.
Earlier this week, hospitality employer group Restaurant & Catering Australia, warned the changes to that sector’s award could cost 8000 jobs. The group claims 1000 restaurants would go out of business and 50% of those left trading would be unviable.
Meanwhile back in Canberra, negotiations are continuing between independent senators Stephen Fielding and Nick Xenophon as the Government tries to ensure the Fair Work bill will pass through the Senate.
Fielding wants a number of amendments to the bill to protect small businesses, including increasing the threshold under which a business is exempt from unfair dismissal laws from 15 to 20. Fielding also wants a change that would prevent unions from accessing non-union members’ records without consent.
Fielding appears likely to get the support of the Opposition and Xenophon for these changes.