The National Retail Association (NRA) has launched an appeal against the Fair Work Commission’s decision to abolish junior wage rates for 20 year old workers, saying it would be devastating for both retailers and their staff if allowed to stand unchallenged.
Trevor Evans, NRA CEO, said the retail sector had been shocked by last month’s decision to force young workers to compete against highly experienced older personnel.
“We have been overwhelmed by the response from our members and other concerned retailers urging us to respond quickly to this baffling ruling from the Commission,” Evans said.
“Businesses have also been deeply concerned by the chest-beating from unions boasting that this is simply the tip of the iceberg, and that they will now work to spread this precedent across other parts of the retail sector and indeed other industries.
“So I’m pleased today to say that the National Retail Association will spearhead an industry appeal in the Federal Court of Australia against the ruling. We have decided on this appeal after taking advice from our legal advisers and advocates and consulting with the industry.”
Evans said the appeal would focus on whether the Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission had erred by considering the lower pay rate for 20 year old retail employees in isolation, rather than as part of the entire award safety net.
“The Full Bench asked itself the wrong question in that it asked itself if the discounted rate for 20 year old retail employees provides a fair and reasonable safety net,” the appeal documents state.
The NRA is also disputing some of the Full Bench’s findings in relation to the productivity and duties of younger workers.
Evans said the NRA was concerned about the serious contradiction between this decision and a number of the Commission’s recent rulings, which have effectively required significant expert evidence or bipartisan agreement in order to bring about any substantial changes to modern awards.
He said retailers were baffled by the decision, because they knew that it would make it even harder to hire and maintain younger workers in already difficult trading conditions.
“The simple fact is that retailers have fixed wage budgets. If some of their staff members suddenly cost more to employ, the only rational choice they have is to cut back on the hours that person works.
“So this decision will drive up wage costs for employers in the short term, and in the long term it can only mean less work for 20 year olds. That’s why we have agreed to industry’s urging to mount an appeal.”