It certainly has been an exciting year so far in workplace relations, and there are a number of items that cannot go unnoticed and should not go unnoticed by our membership.

In the last sitting week of federal parliament for March 2017, the Senate voted to block the Fair Work Commission’s decision to reduce Sunday penalty rates for some retail workers. The NRA was disappointed to see numerous crossbench senators – including those who have previously voiced support for the Fair Work Commission’s decision – team up with the opposition and the Greens to try and overturn the decision of an independent commission.

As I have said before, this decision was heard by a full bench of independent members of the Fair Work Commission, over a period of approximately 3 years. Both sides were given the opportunity to present evidence and our industry was able to present such a compelling argument that a favourable decision was made and ought to be shown the respect it deserves.

The Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Take Home Pay) Bill 2017, in my view flies in the face of the Fair Work Commission and its legitimacy and now heads to the Lower House where we are of the view that it will be defeated, meaning that the Fair Work Commission’s decision will not be overturned. However, it is concerning to the NRA that the elected representatives are not willing to respect the decision of an independent umpire, nor heed or listen to the views of the second largest employing industry in our country.

This past week we have seen the SDA make submissions in the minimum wage review which seeks an increase of 10 % to the base hourly rates of retail and fast food workers, on top of the rise sought by the ACTU, if the planned cuts to penalty rates proceed. They have also requested that any cut to penalty rates be phased in over f years commencing 1 July 2019.

Like you, the NRA supports employees being able to access a safety net, when it comes to wages and low income earners. However, it does not support increasing worker’s wages to the point that employers can no longer afford to hire, train or trade.

Any change in the minimum wage needs to be carefully considered in order to strike the balance between ensuring that the rate keeps pace with the cost of living, the costs of doing business and the pace of the economy. Our industry employs 1.3 million people and one third of them are youth. Our youth in many parts of the country are struggling to find work and should the costs of labour increase to the SDA’s recommended levels it will continue to rise. Now is the time to make sound economic decisions which will ensure our young Australians can obtain jobs and maintain them.

Finally, as many of you are aware a number of high profile members of the FWC have left their respective roles prior to their tenure coming to an end.  This week Minister Cash has appointed:

  • Peter Anderson, former CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and former advisor to Peter Reith and John Howard;
  • Alan Coleman, a very well respected lawyer from Corrs and who has formerly worked with the United Nations regarding Human Rights; and
  • Sarah McKinnon, formerly the general manager of workplace relations and legal affairs for the National Farmer’s Association.

We look forward to working with these new appointments on any issues that impact NRA members and we urge Minister Cash to make further recommendations to the Governor-General without delay to ensure that the Fair Work Commission remains a place where parties can come before the law without fear or favour, affection or ill will.

We again invite you to make recommendations to us, in relation who you would like to see be appointed next.

Have a wonderful week.

Dominique Lamb
CEO