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Productivity Commission calls for weekend pay changes in entertainment, hospitality and retail

Productivity Commission calls for weekend pay changes in entertainment, hospitality and retail
December 22, 2015

The Productivity Commission has recommended changes to weekend penalty rates, calling for Sunday rates to be brought into line with Saturday's time-and-a-half payments.

The recommendations - laid out in the Commission's final report into workplace relations released on Monday - would, if adopted, affect workers in the entertainment, hospitality and retail industries.

The report, Australia’s Workplace Relations Framework, did not recommend any changes to overtime penalty rates, night penalty rates or shift loadings, nor changes to rates for nurses, teachers or emergency services workers.

The 1200-page report stated “penalty rates have a legitimate role in compensating employees for working long hours or at asocial times.

"However, Sunday penalty rates for hospitality, entertainment, retailing, restaurants and cafes are inconsistent across similar work, anachronistic in the context of changing consumer preferences, and frustrate the job aspirations of the unemployed and those who are only available for work on Sunday.

"Rates should be aligned with those on Saturday, creating a weekend rate for each of the relevant industries."

Announcing the report's findings, Australian Employment Minister Michaelia Cash said the Federal Government would examine the recommendations and, if the case for sensible and fair changes to workplace relations were outlined, they would be taken to the next election.

Senator Cash said the Commission recommended that penalty rates should continue to be set by the independent Fair Work Commission and the Government has no plan to change the rates itself.

Se explained “the only recommendation that the Productivity Commission makes on penalty rates is directed to the independent Fair Work Commission and that is in relation to the weekend penalty rates for the retail and hospitality industry.

"Whether or not the independent Fair Work Commission accepts or rejects this particular recommendation is a matter for the Fair Work Commission."

The report was commissioned last year by then Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey, and looked at all aspects of Australia’s workplace, from unfair dismissal to awards, migrant workers, and the 24/7 economy.

The Commission made almost 70 recommendations unrelated to penalty rates, including:

• Commissioning a comprehensive review of apprenticeship and traineeship agreements
• The introduction of measures that encourage migrants to report exploitation
• Changes to unfair dismissal laws, including more hurdles to clear before taking it to arbitration
• The Commission also recommended the creation of a new organisation to review modern awards and the minimum wage.

The report has been welcomed by industry bodies with Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA) issuing a statement saying that the recommendations were particularly relevant to the accommodation and hospitality sectors and their 24/7 operating conditions.

The TAA statement explained  “with the report recommending consideration of individual flexible arrangements, rather than uniform penalty rates, because existing penalty rate provisions have prevented many businesses from opening and creating additional employment on weekends and public holidays.

“The Commission’s recommendations echo the results of a report commissioned by TAA and undertaken by Deloitte Access Economics, which concluded: ‘on the basis of the evidence gathered via the online surveys, this report concludes that a large portion of weekend workers have minor or no difficulty working weekends, that there is only limited special significance assigned to working Sundays, that penalty rates appear to reduce aggregate staffing and opening hours on weekends and that significant portions of society, especially weekend workers themselves, benefit from access to services on weekends.’”

TAA Chair Martin Ferguson (and former Australian Council of Trade Unions Secretary and Labor Tourism Minister), said that the Productivity Commission’s report was a welcome and refreshing contribution to the issue.

Ferguson stated “industrial relations reform is critical for Australia’s transition to a services-based economy.

“We don’t support abolishing penalty rates, but we do believe that ‘premiums’ such as excessive Sunday and public holiday penalties should be reformed. The way forward is for parties to be realistic. It’s about incremental progress, not putting your head in the sand, thinking that shift penalties that were relevant in the 1930s and 1940s are still relevant.

“Work conditions need to be adjusted to reflect changes in the industrial landscape so that both businesses and workers can benefit. No one gains from a hospitality business being closed because it is unprofitable to open, while thousands of workers who don’t see a vast difference between working on a Sunday or a weekday are missing out on employment because of the intransigence.

“Unfortunately, while the Productivity Commission report reflects a victory for common sense, calls for a sensible debate on the issue have already fallen on deaf ears with reactionary forces predictably raising the spectre of ‘Work Choices’ rather than opting for constructive dialogue.”

Ferguson said that the recommendations of the Productivity Commission would hopefully flow through to the Fair Work Commission’s review of the Hospitality Award, which was expected in early 2016.

He added that AHA and TAA had presented a significant case, supported by evidence from across the sector.

7th December 2015 - PRODUCTIVITY COMMISSION REPORT A BARRIER FOR TOURISM

5th November 2015 - STAFF AND SKILLS SHORTAGE IMPACTS TOURISM BUSINESSES

15th August 2015 - PRODUCTIVITY REPORT HIGHLIGHTS OPPORTUNITIES TO IMPROVE TOURISM

30th April 2015 - TOURISM AND HOSPITALITY INDUSTRIES MUST OFFER WORLD CLASS SERVICE TO THRIVE 

1st May 2014 - VISITORS FROM TRADITIONAL TOURISM MARKETS HEAD BACK TO AUSTRALIA 

10th August 2013 - TOURISM INDUSTRY WANTS LOWER WAGE RATES


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We hope that you value the news that we publish so while you're here can we ask for your support?

The news we publish at www.ausleisure.com.au is independent, credible (we hope) and free for you to access, with no pay walls and no annoying pop-up ads.

However, as an independent publisher, can we ask for you to support us by subscribing to the printed Australasian Leisure Management magazine - if you don't already do so.

Published bi-monthly since 1997, the printed Australasian Leisure Management differs from this website in that it publishes longer, in-depth and analytical features covering aquatics, attractions, entertainment, events, fitness, parks, recreation, sport, tourism and venues management.

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