WA business tells Canberra penalty rate change vital

28 February, 2017

Western Australian businesses have said the Fair Work Commission’s decision to adjust penalty rates will allow local industry to create jobs and offer more hours for workers.

Members of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Western Australia (CCI) have welcomed the recent announcement from the Fair Work Commission (FWC), which ruled that penalty rates on Sundays and Public Holidays in the retail and hospitality industries will be reduced.

In public submissions to the Fair Work Commission, CCI Members called for change to the outdated system and labelled penalty rates “devastating” to business – one Member stated that “penalty rates stop us employing more staff and stops us from rewarding our employees with above award pay where it is warranted.”

Another Member said “we are unable to trade effectively, customer service suffers and we are lucky to break even.”

CCI Chief Executive Officer Deidre Willmott said the announced changes will be particularly significant for WA’s tourism industry, especially in regional areas.

“The decision from the Fair Work Commission recognises Australia’s modern economy, where Sundays and Public Holidays are not what they once were,” Ms Willmott said.

“In Western Australia, the jobless rate is the highest in the country and youth unemployment is 14.9 per cent – miles ahead of the national average of 13.5 per cent –  the decision will mean business owners in the retail and hospitality industries will now be able to open more hours and likely create more jobs, particularly part-time jobs.

“CCI has long called for a reduction in Sunday and Public Holiday penalty rates to allow small and medium sized businesses to open more hours and create more jobs for workers – our Members tell us that the exorbitant rates paid on these days stop them from opening their doors, because they simply cannot afford to pay grossly inflated wages. This is bad for workers who want more hours, bad for businesses who want to trade, bad for customers who want to spend their money and bad for the economy overall.

“This is particularly damaging in regional areas. We know West Australians love to head off for a long weekend away, but our regional Members tell us that they cannot afford to open doors when inflated rates apply – in a pub, the current award dictates rates for bar staff, glassies and kitchen hands that are upwards of $50 an hour, which means many business owners can’t afford to pay them and are forced to shut their doors on Sundays and Public Holidays or open with reduced staff, which is often when there are more customers in town seeking services.

“Clearly this is an unsustainable conflict that had to be resolved and business is pleased the Fair Work Commission’s decision recognises that the current rates were limiting hours offered and jobs created in the retail and hospitality sectors. 

“CCI believes that helping business work will help put West Australians back to work, and the Fair Work Commission’s sensible decision is certainly a positive step in the right direction.”

Media contact: Kate Hodges – 0448 928 227