By Claire Reilly

SYDNEY, NSW: Fair Work Australia is today coming under heavy fire from retail representative bodies, including the Australian Retailers Association, for a ruling that will require an increase to the minimum wage of almost $20 a week.

The ARA has slammed the decision, saying it will have profoundly negative effects on an industry which is already experiencing a slump.

ARA Executive Director Russell Zimmerman said that the decision will hit small to medium-sized businesses the hardest.

“Many of the bigger companies are protected from the rise due to the EBA’s they have in place. Meanwhile, the smaller players are facing the same struggles as Australian workers with interest rate increases, more taxes, increased utility bills and a higher cost of living. Many will simply have to close their doors,” said Zimmerman.

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Zimmerman also threatened that wage increases would force retailers to cut staff. “This decision is disastrous for retailers and it’s unreasonable to expect them to pay increased wage bills while the sector struggles to post any significant growth and when retailers are already facing wage increases as of 1 July with the second transition to the Modern Award,” he said.

The decision by the FWA comes only days after the Australian National Retailers Association (ANRA) tabled a submission to the Productivity Commission calling for “restraint in minimum award wage increases while the retail sector is experiencing soft growth”.

ANRA was calling for the Federal Government to create a “level playing field” with online players and overseas retailers.

Meanwhile, the ARA is looking for a level playing field of its own in what it claims is a two-speed economy that is leaving retailers behind.

“FWA’s decision has disregarded the fact that we are operating in a two speed economy, with retailers travelling in the slowest gear and pitted up against the booming mining sector,” said Zimmerman.