Business groups plan to push for a reduction in weekend penalty rates when they front the Fair Work Commission.
The retail sector award was one of many rates being examined in a review still underway by the Commission, which last year saw a 25 per cent reduction in Sunday rates for casuals working in hospitality.
Individual industries, retail and hospitality, want the Commission to consider each award individually.
Particular focus will be on Sunday rates and public holiday pay, which employers say lead to restaurant and shop closures, low productivity and dissatisfaction from customers.
The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) will make a claim to have Sunday penalty rates slashed by 50 per cent.
ARA director Russell Zimmerman said Sunday rates in particular were a huge issue for retailers, and double time rates were not sustainable.
“Retailers are paying double time or 100 per cent on Sunday. So that means that rates are sitting up, getting close to around $50 an hour on a Sunday for a senior retail employee,” he said.
“And it’s just not sustainable in this day and age to be paying that kind of rate on a Sunday.
“But I think the important part is, particularly in the restaurant and catering industry, obviously you can put a surcharge on your meals, but you can’t necessarily do that in retail.”
Retailer’s costs 105 per cent of profit on Sunday: group
Mr Zimmerman said for some retailers, it was not even financially worthwhile to open on Sundays.
“It’s costing them more than what they’re [profiting] on a Sunday. In particular, I’ve got a retailer who tells me it costs him 105 per cent to open on a Sunday,” he said.
However, in some cases retailers who operate in shopping centres must open, therefore they roster on a very bare minimum of staff.
“Consumers complain, naturally, because the service on a Sunday is not up to scratch and retailers just simply can’t afford to put those [extra staff] on,” Mr Zimmerman said.
Sunday and public holiday rates of pay are also a big concern within the hospitality industry.
Restaurant and Catering Australia (R&CA) chief executive John Hart said higher penalty rates have resulted in one-third of restaurants now staying closed on Sundays and half on public holidays.
“We certainly believe that, in this day and age, there is no difference to working on a Sunday to working on a Saturday, and therefore we believe Sundays should be paid at the Saturday rate, he said.
“We also believe that in a contemporary environment, in the restaurant industry, one shouldn’t have to pay penalties for working after hours.
“That’s when most of our people work and certainly in the morning, at 6:00am when a lot of cafés are open, that is not a penalty time. It should be just ordinary hours.”