The Victorian Government will go ahead with two new public holidays for the state, with the Australian Retailers Association warning that many retailers may be forced close their doors as a result of two extra days of paying penalty rates.
The introduction of public holidays on the Friday preceding AFL grand final day and Easter Sunday will increase the number of Victoria’s public holidays to 13 a year – the most of any state or territory.
“These two new public holidays come at a high cost to retail businesses, as it means increased wages as a result of high penalty rates if they are to open,” ARA Executive Director Russell Zimmerman said.
“Many Victorian retailers have indicated to the ARA that they will have no choice but to close their doors on these two days.
“Wages can be 50 per cent higher on Easter Sunday and 150 per cent higher on grand final eve. Retailers face the difficult choice between remaining open and paying incredibly high penalty rates, or closing and losing sales or production.
“Grand final Friday with its annual CBD parade has always been a key event for Melbourne CBD retailers, with increased visitors to the area driving sales. The confirmation of this day as a public holiday will lead to fewer consumers in the city area.”
Mr Zimmerman says grand final Friday will have the greatest impact on the profitability of CBD retailers, as workers will not be in the city before the AFL grand final, diminishing what has traditionally been a peak business period in the Victorian events calendar.
“There will be no wages transfer through higher penalty rates being paid or the traditional net benefit from tourism during AFL Friday as workers and businesses abandon Melbourne CBD to stay at home,” he said.
The ARA is engaged in a review of the General Retail Industry Award 2010 with the Fair Work Commission, with the view to reducing costs for retailers that trade on Sundays and public holidays. The association supports recommendations by the Productivity Commission in its report on workplace relations released earlier this month that penalty rates must be reduced to support retail growth and sustainability.
Master Grocers Australia/Liquor Retailers Australia CEO Jos de Bruin has queried the actions of the Victorian Government on the need to impose, or even consider imposing, these new cost burdens on retailers.
“The declaration of Easter Sunday as a public holiday has cost our members more than $1.4 million in additional wages,” he said.
“Should the Friday before the AFL grand final become a public holiday, this will cost our members, independent supermarkets and liquor stores more than $3.2 million in additional wages. In fact, for a full-time employee, it will cost an additional $28.48 an hour. This is economic vandalism and is simply unsustainable for small businesses, let alone big businesses, to absorb.”
Mr de Bruin says a casual adult employee working on a public holiday will receive $52.21 per hour under the retail award – almost $14.24 per hour more than working on a normal Sunday. Working a usual shift on the Friday before the AFL grand final on a non-public holiday would attract an hourly rate of $23.73 per hour for a casual, but under the pre-election promise by [Victorian Premier Daniel] Andrews, a retail employee would receive $52.21 an hour.
“How can a small independent grocer or liquor store, which is already struggling with high penalty rates, carry this additional cost burden?” he said.
“This is a poor economic decision at a time when unemployment figures are increasing, productivity levels are declining and there is increasing homelessness among young potential casual employees.”