Motorcycle clothing maker Draggin Jeans says any changes to reduce flexibility in the workplace or increase costs will pressure the company to move more manufacturing offshore.
In its Fair Work review submission, Grant Mackintosh of Draggin Jeans says the rise in the Australian dollar had hurt the company and the upcoming carbon tax made it “move some production to a more friendly environment.”
“Any changes which reduce flexibility in the work place or increase local costs will put pressure on us to move more manufacturing offshore,” Mackintosh writes.
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He says it was not just higher manufacturing costs but also increased sourcing, warehousing and logistics costs that would mean the “flow on effect is substantial”.
A submission by The Ark Clothing Co directors Christine Metcalfe and Jenny Layton raises concerns about the Textile, Clothing, Footwear and Associated Industries Award’s “unintentional impact on legitimate home-based subcontractor businesses.”
“The effect of the award is to deem all such businesses to be employees even in situations where prior to the introduction of the TCFA Award those businesses were enjoying above award hourly rates,” the pair writes.
The directors slammed the proposed changes as inflexible and unfair to legitimate home-based businesses.
They say the changes would lead to decreased manufacturing productivity and disregarded the “special circumstances of small and medium-sized Australian manufacturing businesses in the fashion industry.”
Clothing and textile industry contractor Meriel Chamberlin writes in her submission that she can work as a sole trader for multiple clients in hours that suit her – but as a sample machinist in the same circumstance, she would be breaking the law.
She says the current Fair Work legislation was anything but fair and penalised flexible working options in an industry with a high proportion of women in its skilled force.
“Why should ?female? trades be more difficult to work around family commitments than ?male? trades due to minimum and maximum hours restrictions?”
She says skilled workers in the fashion trade were being denied the flexibility those in other professions enjoyed and small companies wanting freelance services for sampling and product development “would have to do it through a middle man who had these sample machinists on their 20-38 hours per week.”
But employment consultant Douglas Brown says there are “no rights for the worker during their probationary period” and “usually no representation for workers in the workplace”.
This created a situation, he says, where “if workers do not choose to join a union they are unrepresented and therefore exploited at every turn, particularly in the probationary period, which is currently around six months.”
Brown says that from his own experience as well as anecdotal evidence, workers have “no means to resolve grievances and disputes” with employers during their probationary periods.
“As a result, workers are regularly violated by not being paid, suffer physical and mental abuse and other similar violations where they have nowhere to turn for assistance.”
He also says many employers had not paid promised bonuses: “In most of the employers I have worked for these bonuses are either not paid out or are paid out reluctantly.”
In a another submission, small business owner Jan Gregory says business cannot be expected keep up with penalty rate payments when Government bodies gave conflicting advice about which days in December were public holidays.
“As there is clearly an unacceptable level of confusion within Fair Work Australia as to what rates applied, it is hardly reasonable to expect business owners who operate on public holidays to have the correct information,” Gregory writes.
She says this was vital information for businesses deciding whether they would stay open on public holidays.
Gregory says beyond coordinating the payments for both state and national public holidays, there is an “urgent need to review the level of payments on these days, especially for small business operating seven days a week.”
“As the majority of hospitality operators appear to disregard their obligations in this respect, (anecdotal evidence), there is obviously a need to establish an economically viable and universally enforceable regulation to ensure that on public holidays there is fair payment in Australia, fair to employees and fair to employers,” she writes.
“In hospitality, there is no way that a public holiday surcharge or a Sunday surcharge comes anywhere near the amount of the penalty wages plus extra for Super. This is despite having every seat taken all day.
“Only businesses that pay correctly are affected. It’s not affecting those that ‘hit the till.'”
Gregory also highlighted a requirement to pay leave loading for dismissed employees, irrespective of the dismissal reason: “Support should be given to businesses where the employee has clearly breached requirements.”
“It appears that if the person were guilty of “serious misconduct” in the Services Industry, then the leave loading would not apply. In the hospitality industry, it doesn’t matter how unsatisfactory an employee has been, the leave loading has to be paid.”