The Australian Retailers Association has encouraged the Government to defer introduction of the Modern Retail Awards for at least 12 months, due to fears retailers will not cope with the added pressure.

Greg Evans, ARA executive director, commented that an increase in wage bills will force over 65 per cent of SME retailers to shed staff.

“Retailers have accepted changes to IR laws including the Fair Work Bill coming into play in July. However, with economic uncertainty and pressure increasing, retailers will not cope with any Award increases in January next year,” Evans said.

“With unemployment at 5.7 percent and rising, retailers don’t need the pressure of increased labour costs which will force many to cut jobs.

Evans also emphasised that now is not the right time to be introducing the Modern Retail Award, due to the fact that retailers need stability in order to recover from their current economic hardships.

“We’re now calling on Minister Gillard to defer the introduction of the Modern Retail Award for at least 12 months. Retailers need certainty from the Government about any increases to wage bills now, to assist with their cash flow and financial planning while budgets are being finalised,” he said.

“Working families struggling to run small retail shops will need at least 12 months before they are better placed to manage wage increases without shedding staff, depending on the economic outlook.”

According to Evans no other economy in the world is introducing new labour laws in the context of the global financial crisis and he was adamant that Australia should be no different.

“They simply cannot afford another blow in this tightening economic climate,” he said.