Australia's Retailers Association's executive director Russell Zimmerman, has appealed for the abolition of paying employees time-and-a-half on Saturdays and double-time on Sundays, to maintain the industry's competitiveness amidst the backdrop of a low consumer spending environment in the country.
"It is vital that retailers remain competitive," he told reporters after giving evidence to a Productivity Commission inquiry into the sector. "We don't want to return to Work Choices."
"We believe that employees do need some compensation (for working weekends) but it is a seven-day-a-week business and you just cannot compete with the wages they're paying at the moment," said Mr Zimmerman.
In a related Sydney Morning Herald report, Zimmerman exclaimed that the penalty rates for shop workers are hurting the industry despite achieving a growth in gross profits by 3.2% in current prices and 6.2% in seasonally adjusted term as June concluded.
"Staying competitive is crucial to the industry's sustainability in a tough market," he added as he submitted evidence to the Productivity Commission of recommendations favorable to the industry.
The report continued that while workers need to be re-compensed for working on weekends, Zimmerman believes that remunerating them time and a half on Saturdays and double time on Sundays is simply unbearable and unviable for the retail industry.
In a Fair Work Australia implemented by Australian Council of Trade Unions which took effect last Jan. 1 2010, casual workers are entitled to penalties and allowances for all casual workers. Included in the entitlements are the penalty rates [extra compensation] for extending the casual's work in the evening, and for working on a night shift and on weekends.
Jeff Lawrence, ACTU secretary said in SMH that should the Productivity Commission carry out any amendments, the wages of retail workers will plummet and their rights to unfair dismissal and minimum shift lengths will recede. Mr Lawrence warned that the move will definitely result in Work Choices.