Retail struggle in January 2020

Industrial relations reform continues to be a focal topic at a federal level, in particular proposals around reforms to part-time employment. It has been revealed that several union and other organisations have proposed a compromise measure to enable part-time retail workers to take on more hours without overtime.

As the representative of retailers of all sizes, the NRA supports any measure that will increase fair work opportunities for employees, while giving greater flexibility to the employers who create those opportunities.

Along with other employer groups, the NRA has been talking with unions for many years about the complexities of part-time employment, including in the IR Working Groups associated with the Omnibus Bill. We welcome any constructive effort to provide greater opportunities and certainty for the whole retail sector. We trust the Commission will also make its decisions based on those criteria.

Meanwhile, South Australia has become the first state in Australia to implement a ban on single-use plastic items such as straws, cutlery and stirrers. As of yesterday, it is now an offence for South Australian businesses, including charities, to supply plastic products to customers although limited exemptions do apply in the case of someone with a disability.

Laws of this nature are an evolution of the plastic bag ban which all states, bar New South Wales, have already implemented. Time will tell if similar laws are replicated across other Australian states but the NRA’s position is that any ban on what retailers can supply to customers requires extensive consultation with the business community. Sufficient lead time between legislation passing parliament and coming into effect is required to ensure that businesses are across the details of any law changes and have an opportunity to implement alternative strategies.

Retailers want to do their part to improve environmental standards but it needs a constructive relationship between lawmakers and business. The NRA has appreciated the opportunity to work with the South Australian Government to ensure disruptions to businesses and consumers alike is minimal. It is our expectation that we have a similar level of engagement with any other State Government that implements similar legislation.

Finally, on the COVID front Victoria has reverted back to the restriction levels it had in place prior to the Holiday Inn cluster. With more and more doses of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines arriving in Australia hopefully we will not see a return to any more hard-lockdowns. Even short, sharp lockdowns can have a devastating impact on the economy, evidenced by Queensland being the only state to experience a decline in retail sales for January after a three-day lockdown period.

All the best for the week ahead.