Unions and businesses strike deal to get more permanent jobs into retail

Posted: 1st Mar

Part-time checkout attendants, shelf-stackers and sales assistants would be allowed to work additional hours without overtime in a joint union-employer plan to encourage more permanent jobs rather than casual positions.

The proposal, led by the Australian Council of Trade Unions and Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia to give part-time retail staff more flexibility, rivals the Morrison government’s plan to legislate a similar arrangement but differs on specifics.

Both the ACTU and COSBOA were in the industrial relations working groups that Prime Minister Scott Morrison called to try to find common ground but ended without agreement on solutions after months of negotiations.

“Genuine agreement between unions and employers has always been possible, but not in a

process which has been hijacked by ideologues,” COSBOA chief executive Peter Strong said in a statement announcing the plan, which will be presented to the industrial tribunal for consideration on Monday.

But Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter said the unions’ agreement to a model similar to the one proposed by the government showed their opposition to its industrial overhaul was merely “hollow rhetoric”.

“The union movement agreeing on a proposal with fewer guaranteed hours for part-time workers than the arrangements proposed by the government’s bill completely exposes their arguments against the bill,” Mr Porter said in a statement.

Both the government’s bill and the ACTU-COSBOA plan are meant to tackle the same problem: part-time workers are generally entitled to overtime if their boss makes them work beyond their standard rostered hours.

That can discourage employers from offering workers more shifts when they would like the work, or mean they employ casuals, who have no set shifts, rather than part-time staff.

The model championed by the ACTU, COSBOA, Master Grocers Association, the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) and the Australian Workers’ Union would let workers doing at least nine regular hours a week to agree to more hours without being paid overtime.

Workers doing more hours regularly for six months would be entitled to convert that to be their new baseline, with the industrial commission to decide disputes.

“These new rights will mean greater certainty and protection for working people,” ACTU secretary Sally McManus said.

The government’s model would apply much more broadly beyond the retail industry to big sectors such as restaurants and fast-food and has a 16-hour baseline and comes without a right for employees to increase their hours permanently.

The Retail and Fast Food Workers Union, a smaller activist rival to the SDA, said the idea of letting workers take on more hours above a base was a good idea but argued the ACTU-led plan would strip away overtime when bosses ask a worker to stay back.

That could happen because the agreement to work longer hours only needs to be documented “as soon as practicable”. “That should be paid as overtime,” RAFFWU secretary Josh Cullinan said.

The Australian Retailers Association, which represents big firms such as JB Hi-Fi, declined to comment while the National Retail Association, which counts 28,000 storefronts among its members, said it welcomed plans to give more flexibility to businesses.

The stoush comes as Labor’s industrial relations spokesman wrote to the Attorney-General’s Department to explain why it appeared to calculate the cost of an opposition plan to let workers transfer accumulated leave between jobs at $20 billion annually, arguing it let itself become politicised.

“We are ... concerned you have not dissociated your department from this discredited exercise which is not in keeping with the apolitical role of the Australian Public Service,” Mr Burke wrote to the department’s acting secretary, Iain Anderson, in a letter seen by this The Age.

Mr Porter said Labor’s policy was too unclear for it to be costed, so his department had examined the price of a similar idea, which is a common practice.

 

Access Australian Retail Jobs & Training at www.australianretailjobs.com.au

Download the Australian Retail Jobs App at the Apple App Store https://apps.apple.com/vn/app/retail-jobs/id552838110

Download the Australian Retail Jobs App at the Google Play Store - https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.uworkin.android.retail

 

Source: The Age - https://www.theage.com.au/politics/federal/unions-and-businesses-strike-deal-to-get-more-permanent-jobs-into-retail-20210228-p576iw.html