By Claire Reilly

The CEO of Myer has echoed the words of Australian Retailers Association director Russell Zimmerman, calling for a removal of what he deems excessive penalty rates that retailers are required to pay to workers.

Speaking to the Australian Financial Review after the release of Myer’s profit results yesterday, Brookes said that as consumers change the way they shop, retailers needed to be able to adapt to suit shifting trends.

“There is no doubt that the customer is no longer shopping Thursday night and Saturday morning but shopping all through the week,” said Brookes. “We need to be able to respond to that by having flexible workplace relations and the ability to negotiate our own deals under some rules with our own people.

“There is a need to wind back penalty rates,” he said. “Some of those penalty rates go to 200 per cent.”

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However, Brookes noted that removing penalty rates would be a tough political move and one that would no doubt prove unpopular with many Australians.

“Unfortunately today, getting flexibility in the award is going to be impossible because it wouldn’t be popular,” he said. “We are in an environment of populist politics, and making a hard decision for the good efficiency of the country is a really difficult decision for a government to take.

“Therefore we have to learn to live with what would be some of the highest wage and penalty rates in the world.”

Continuing with the current model would have consequences for both retailers and consumers, he said.

“Whether you’re selling hot coffee or baked beans or clothes, it has to have a knock-on effect in two ways – the customer has to pay for it one way or another, either with decreased service or product cost.

“It may mean potentially we might not even trade on Sundays in some stores because it’s uneconomical to do so when you have to pay 200 per cent penalty rates.

“Or it means under the retail award it’s feasible the uni student jobs and the casual jobs and after-school jobs, which is how I started and a lot of people in retail started, won’t be there.”