By Patrick Avenell

Australian Retailers Association (ARA) executive director Richard Evans has attacked the Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Workplace Relations Julia Gillard’s plan for pay awards in the retail sector. The ARA’s gripe specifically refers to bonus payments accrued through working outside of normal business hours – that includes peak sales time including the weekend.

"The ARA’s submission to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission strongly recommended a retail award (for 1.2 million employees) should reflect community demand for deregulated shopping hours by producing penalty rate structures within the context of a seven day / 24 hour trade period – but this has been ignored,” said Evans.

“The penalty rate structure in the draft award is reminiscent of the 1960’s regulated market of Monday to Friday working weeks. This is not flexible enough for the modern retail market.

"The modern consumer wants seven day trade, and in some cases, 24 hour shopping access. Retail is very competitive and driven by consumer demand. A retailer should not be penalised for being open to meet consumer demand, but under the current structure for penalty rates they are.”

This ARA’s view is likely to be supported by appliance and consumer electrical retailers, who are reliant on weekend and late night shopping trade to drive sales figures. This means that stores, such as Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi and WOW Sight & Sound, are required to employ casual or part-time staff in order to serve customers during these business spike periods.