Shorten threatens to overturn penalty rates

Labeled a political stunt.

The National Retail Association (NRA) has slammed an attempt by Bill Shorten to overturn changes to Sunday penalty rates as a “desperate political stunt.”

The Opposition Leader has introduced a Bill to Parliament to reverse the decision by the independent Fair Work Commission (FWC) to overhaul Sunday penalty rates across five awards.

NRA CEO Dominique Lamb urged Parliament to respect the ruling of the independent umpire and not overturn its decision.

“The independent Fair Work Commission (FWC) spent two years consulting with stakeholders across the retail sector before handing down their decision,” Lamb said.

“After receiving evidence from 143 witnesses and almost 6000 submissions, the FWC came to a very sensible compromise regarding Sunday penalty rates that reflected the current economic environment in retail. It is disappointing that the Opposition is attacking the FWC decision in a desperate attempt to score some cheap political points.”

Lamb said retail is currently experiencing a challenging period and it is vital that penalty rates strike the right balance between fairness and what is affordable. Lamb also took aim at the Opposition’s hypocrisy given it was Labor who created the independent umpire.

“It was the previous Labor Government, with Bill Shorten as Finance Minister, that set up the independent umpire and it is hypocritical for them to be using the Federal Parliament to perform populist stunts such as this,” she said.

Australian Retailers Association (ARA) executive director, Russell Zimmerman said last year’s decision to reduce Sunday penalty rates from double-time to time-and-a-half was an incredible outcome for Australian retailers as it will provide long-term benefits for employers and employees in the industry.

“With Labor’s recent moves to block the penalty rates reduction the ARA are concerned that some people have misunderstood the recent changes to penalty rates, or worse, are being misinformed,” he said.

“Sunday penalty rates have not been abolished, nor will they be. We have simply reduced the rate from 200% to 150% as these high penalty rates were deterring employers from giving their staff Sunday shifts, and forcing some retailers to close their doors. This next phase in the penalty rates reduction is a small step for the industry but a giant leap for retailers who are currently unable to open their stores on Sundays.

“As the penalty rates decision was made by the FWC, an independent umpire established by the Labor Party, and then upheld by the Federal Court, the ARA trust all sides of politics, including Bill Shorten, will support this revolutionary decision for the industry.

“If we don’t have trust in our Federal system and our national workplace relations tribunal that Labor implemented how are we ever going to move forward and grow as a country?”

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