The Fair Work Commission has made two important decisions affecting retailers in the last 24 hours, and it’s worth considering how commentators and elected officials respond to each one.
The first issue, yesterday, was the Commission’s announcement on the timing of the adjustment of Sunday penalty rates. Your feedback to us has been that retailers would prefer to see this transition take place over two years, rather than four.
However, we can now at least move forward with some certainty. On the positive side, the longer transition period will ease the impact on workers as annual award increases flow through to their pay packets.
Which brings us neatly to the second issue – today’s announcement by the Commission of a 3.3 per cent increase in the minimum wage, which will trigger a similar increase in award pay rates. Naturally, the NRA supports the right of the independent umpire, after considering all the evidence and all relevant factors, to decide on a fair and reasonable pay rate. And while there will no doubt be some grumbling from unions and possibly other employer groups that the increase is not enough/too much, everyone will accept the decision and get on with their work.
Employer groups won’t go out with a national advertising campaign, complaining that the pay increase will take money out of the pockets of small business owners, even though it will. We won’t be demanding that politicians suddenly step in with legislation to override the decision of the expert Commission, even though they could.
We won’t promise to accept the independent umpire’s verdict before its handed down, but then renege on that commitment once we see the decision. And most importantly, we won’t set out on a divisive and emotive campaign to undermine public confidence in the Commission and to portray workers as evil and greedy simply for accepting the umpire’s decision. Because that kind of rhetoric does nothing to help jobs creation.
It would be nice to see the union movement, who will no doubt grab today’s wage increase with both hands, also accept the Commission’s verdict in relation to Sunday penalty rates. Because the point of having an independent umpire is that these important decisions are not made in the court of public opinion.
They are deliberately removed from the political process to ensure fairness, consistency and – most importantly – sensible decisions based on real evidence rather than fear campaigns. You can’t accept the decisions that you like and then stamp your feet to have the politicians overturn the ones you don’t like.
It’s time for everybody to stop this damaging debate and move forward with implementing the penalty rates decision and the minimum wage decision, in the interests of businesses and their staff.
Have a great week.