Retailers criticise push to axe junior rates

Young shop assistant. | Newsreel
An application has been lodged with the Fair Work Commission to abolish junior pay rates for 18 to 20-year-old workers. | Photo: Daisy Daisy (iStock)

An application before the Fair Work Commission to abolish junior rates for young workers has been criticised by the nation’s peak retail body.

Australian Retailers Association CEO Paul Zahra said a bid by the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA) to abolish junior rates for workers aged between 18-20 years had been rushed through without industry consultation.

Mr Zahra said changes to wage structures should be consulted on and carefully considered to maintain sustainable outcomes for both employees and employers.

“Junior rates are used to incentivise employment of young people who are less skilled, giving them an entry point for their careers,” he said.

“Without these rates, these young people may otherwise struggle to compete against older, more experienced applicants.

“Given the current economic conditions, we also have concerns about the impact this change would have on retailers who are experiencing a cost-of-doing-business crisis, especially so soon after the FWC’s decision to increase award wages by 3.75 percent in addition to the upcoming 0.5 percent increase in the Superannuation Guarantee Rate.

Mr Zahra said many employers in the retail, fast food and pharmacy sectors were small businesses who couldn’t afford another wage hike.

He said the SDA application wanted to abolish junior pay rates for selected employees covered by the General Retail Industry Award, Fast Food Industry Award and Pharmacy Industry Award.

“The SDA is aiming to bring these three awards in line with the Hair and Beauty Award, however that is a sector which has intensely different skills and training requirements. Comparing retail to hair and beauty is like comparing apples and oranges with core differences in how they operate, and the accredited training required.”