ARA calls for penalty rate reductions and card consistency

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is confident the evidence it has presented to the Fair Work Commission will see a reduction in Sunday penalty rates in the retail sector.

The ARA and the retail sector have been reviewing the General Retail Industry Award 2010 for the past 18 months. They said that reducing Sunday penalties from the current double time (100 per cent) to time and a half (50 per cent) would help to stem job losses and improve growth in the sector.

“Should Sunday penalties be cut, retailers will be able to afford to employ more staff for more hours,” ARA Executive Director Russell Zimmerman said. “With youth unemployment rates at an all-time high, and retail being one of Australia’s largest private employers, this change will enable businesses to employ more staff, helping to reduce unemployment levels, particularly in the sector of under-25s.”

The ARA stressed that it did not propose the complete removal of penalty rates, but simply a reduction in the current Sunday penalty.

Card payment surcharges

Mr Zimmerman also said that retailers are being forced to bear unreasonably high acceptance costs on credit card transactions because of uneven regulation of companies by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA).

“It is simply baffling why the RBA chooses to regulate certain payment companies, but not others,” he said. “The ARA is calling for the RBA to apply the same rules with all payment schemes.”

Some cards cost retailers more than twice as much in fees to accept than others, which the ARA says leaves retailers with no alternative than to pass these costs on to consumers through a surcharge if they were to continue to accept these high-cost cards.

Mr Zimmerman says the ARA will continue to push for RBA reform on the issue but that “in the interim, it’s important for retailers to be aware that they may be contacted by unregulated payment companies in an attempt to have them absorb their excessive costs and asking them to help protect their market position”.

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