Graeme Watson Dominique Lamb Troy Wild

This week saw the successful launch of the National Retail Association’s State of the Retail Nation forums, proudly sponsored by REST Industry Super.

Retailers from across multiple sectors met to hear from industry professionals and to share insight at breakfast briefings in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney, plus an online webinar.

NRA CEO Dominique Lamb led the briefings with a comprehensive overview on sector trends and policy, while Troy Wild, Director of NRA Legal, provided insight into the top legal issues facing our members, and retailers in general, at the moment.

Attendees were also privy to an exclusive peek into the workings of the Fair Work Commission with Hon Graeme Watson, former Vice President of the Fair Work Commission.

Graeme Watson Dominique Lamb Troy Wild

Watson provided perspective to recent cases before the bench and explored the potential impact of the penalty rates for retailers, and the wider economy. In particular, Watson pointed out that “unpopular decisions need to be made” to reduce the alarming growth in youth unemployment.

“A perfect storm is brewing in our retail and hospitality industries,” said Watson. “The stakes are too high for simplistic notions. The retail and hospitality industries are first job industries and the elephant in the room of the penalty rates debate in these industries is youth unemployment.”

“The OECD average youth unemployment rate increased from 12 per cent to 15 per cent between 2007 and 2014.”

“The increase in Australia over the same period was from 9.4 per cent to 13.3 per cent. Since then, the Australian figure has remained at similar levels and operates with an additional underutilisation rate in the order of 30 per cent.”

“Between 2008 and 2015 the percentage of young jobseekers who have been unemployed for over a year jumped from 8.7 per cent to 18.2 per cent.”

Watson also brought fresh insight to the Better-Off-Overall-Test (BOOT) and recent rejections of enterprise agreements, saying it is unlikely that businesses will continue to pursue enterprise agreements as the FWC decision process offered little certainty, even if there is an agreement between the company, employees and unions.

Retailers at the forums were also given the chance to ask Lamb, Wild and Watson about issues directly affecting their businesses.

“It was great to get another perspective on what is going on in Australian retail,” said one retailer.

“[I liked hearing] Graeme Watson’s frank views [and] hearing about some of the work NRA is doing that we don’t always hear about”, said another.

The next State of the Retail Nation forum series will be held in June with registrations opening in late April.