This week I have been in Canberra to meet with both sides of politics about the effects of Penalty Rates on our members and their families. We met with the Federal Small Business Minster, Bruce Billson and Employment Minister Eric Abetz as well as the Shadow Employment Minister Brendan O’Connor and Bill Shortens office as Shadow Small Business Minister. We briefed them on the concerns we have about the impost of penalty rates on newsagents and their capacity to employ staff at weekends and that the current settings are reducing available shifts at higher rates of pay for our employees. The Minsters were receptive to our case and have told us that we require more empirical data from you the newsagents on the costs involved and the impact on employment at weekends and public holidays. They also suggested that we sound out the union and the Fair Work Commission about some other possible models for achieving what we want.
We haven’t yet put a case for change to the Fairwork Commission (FWC), as a case to FWC could cost $100’s of thousands if challenged, as was the case with the hospitality industry; and the ANF is not in a position to do this and would not risk member funds in this way on something we could have little certainty over at this stage. So we have to approach it initially in other ways to get the results we require.
To achieve this, we will certainly have a conversation with the FWC about these issues and some aspects of the advice we have received without making an application yet, we will discuss this and other suggestions from Mr Billson’s office of alternate angles to address the issue with our IR advisor, and based on the outcomes of our meetings we will now organise to talk to the new national secretary of the SDA union and to other industry associations as well, to consider how we can work together and what compromises may be available.
We will then prepare a detailed submission to the 4 yearly review of Modern Awards which is now underway. We have strategy in place for this review already, and we expect, based on the advice of our IR partner, to submit to this review next year. You can access information on this here: https://www.fwc.gov.au/awards-and-agreements/modern-award-reviews/4-yearly-review
The government has also committed to having the Productivity Commission review the Fair Work Act starting next year. There are no specific terms of reference for this yet, although some were leaked. We will make a detailed submission to this as well and hope that the result will give the Government some empirical evidence to start gathering a mandate for change.
As mentioned above, gathering our own empirical evidence is going to be critical to the success of these submissions and this is something we will start doing with the help of our members. We will in the coming months be putting out a Survey of very specific questions to you all on this. If you can give some thought to this and are able to provide any detailed examples to us of how penalties effect your business and family life this would be an important start. You can send these to firstname.lastname@example.org
Meanwhile, we have provided all of our members with a step by step guide on how to help us increase pressure for change by approaching your local MPs – to enable the ANF to strengthen your case.
If you haven’t seen this please follow this link to the ANF website. http://www.anf.net.au/index.php?article_id=0115