Industry awaits decision on penalty rates

courtroomThe retail sector now awaits a decision from the Federal Court on the fate of the Fair Work Commisson’s cut to Sunday Penalty rates following three days of hearings in Melbourne this week.

The Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman estimates that it could be 6-8 weeks before the full bench of the Federal Court hands down its ruling, which could see the FWC’s original cuts reversed.

The challenge, launched by the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA) and the hospitality union United voice, argued that the Fair Work Commission failed to produce a fair and relevant set of conditions for workers when determining whether there were adequate grounds for change.

“There was no analysis in this decision…that sought to identify whether there’d been a material change in circumstances,” United Voice counsel Herman Borenstein QC told the panel of judges earlier this week.

“The determinations were made on the basis of various errors of law.”

The ARA’s counsel, Stuart Wood QC, argued in turn that the commission had acted within its jurisdiction when it made its decision.

ARA executive director Russell Zimmerman is hopeful that the outcome will be positive for the sector.

“The ARA have been at the forefront of penalty rates decision for a number of years with other peak industry groups including MGA Independent Retailers and the Franchise Council financially contributing to this case,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman noted that the National Retailers Association, which was one of the industry groups that appeared before the Federal Court this week, had not financially contributed to the case.

“Although the National Retailers Association (NRA) have been asked on a number of occasions to financially contribute to this significant case for the retail industry they have so far failed to do so,” Zimmerman said.

“The ARA have been at the forefront of this issue from the beginning as reducing penalty rates will allow retailers to increase trading hours, employ more staff and reduce the nation’s unemployment rate,” Zimmerman said.

“While we are disappointed that the Sunday penalty reductions will be spread over three years, we believe their full implementation will be critical to the success of the industry, and to the increase in employment opportunities for a broad range of people, in particular young people and those looking to secure a foothold in employment.”

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