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NRA: private members bill may undermine system’s independence

canberra, parliament house, politics, governmentThe National Retailers Association (NRA) has warned that Labor’s private members bill, introduced to parliament yesterday to block the Fair Work Commission’s reduction in Sunday penalty rates, will set a dangerous precedent for all independent ruling bodies across the nation. 

Dominique Lamb, NRA CEO, said that there were alarm bells for everyone, “regardless of their stance on penalty rates.”

“It’s now shaping up to be an election issue, amid a worrying campaign designed to undermine the FWC’s purpose and due process, not to mention the three years of submissions, hearings and deliberations it took to come to this decision.”

“While we’d fully anticipated this issue would be politicised, the introduction of a private members bill to undermine the independence of the system, to quash the rule of law, is taking this issue far beyond mere political rhetoric,” she said.

Lamb said that reductions to Sunday penalty rates in the retail and hospitality sector were an important step toward addressing Australia’s growing concern around underemployment – allowing more SMEs to create higher rates of permanency for workers who, in the past, have not been offered a more permanent role.

“Small business owners who have to cover Sunday shifts themselves because they can’t afford to pay double time to workers, workers who want shifts, aren’t exactly able to create jobs are they?

“If we make it feasible for them to employ others on a Sunday, we create shifts for Australians, and allow small to medium businesses to grow, and in turn, create more jobs,” she said.

Meanwhile Labor and the Greens say the government needs to act to stop penalty rate cuts rather than launch a fresh attack on union-employer deals.

Malcolm Turnbull will on Wednesday bring to parliament tough new penalties to crack down on union misconduct, recommended 14 months ago by a royal commission.

Secret payments between employers and unions that could have a corrupting influence or were not made with a legitimate purpose in mind will be outlawed.

As well, employers and unions must publicly disclose any payments that flow from the employer to the union at the time of an enterprise agreement.

But Labor says the government should instead focus on the 700,000 workers in the retail, hospitality, fast food and pharmacy sectors who are soon to lose some of their penalty rates.

Labor and the Greens have introduced private bills to stop the Fair Work Commission’s decision from being implemented and want a vote on them as soon as possible.

Labor leader Bill Shorten says it’s a “straightforward choice”.

“You can either vote to save the Sunday pay rates of young people, of women, of people in the regions, of workers who depend upon these penalty rates … or vote to endorse cutting them,” he says.

Turnbull says Shorten sacrificed penalty rates as a former Australian Workers’ Union leader doing deals with companies.

Workplace issues are expected to be discussed in the coalition and Labor party room meetings in Canberra on Tuesday.

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