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Hospitality sector calls for special treatment over wages

Thursday, 12 January 2012 | By Michelle Hammond

The hospitality sector shouldn’t have to pay penalty rates on weekends and public holidays, a leading industry group says, because businesses in the sector are struggling to keep their doors open.

 

The Restaurant and Catering Association has laid out a 10-point plan for the industry, which includes increasing the unfair dismissal cap from 15 employees to 25 employees.

 

The association also believes enterprise agreements should override modern provisions where agreement is reached by a majority of employees.

 

According to Greg Parkes, the association’s workplace relations director, businesses are being forced to close down on weekends and public holidays because they can’t afford to trade.

 

“We’re constantly getting calls from our members; they’re putting a lot of pressure on us. We want these points to be part of the Fair Work review,” Parkes told SmartCompany.

 

Other points include replacing individual flexibility arrangements with genuine agreements that allow a flat hourly rate, and rewriting transfer of business provisions that include too much red tape.

 

The RCA also wants employers to vary modern awards where industry conditions deteriorate, and limit the scope of arbitration in Fair Work tribunal matters.

 

It also wants to prohibit the right of entry provisions for unions to enter workplaces where no members exist.

 

Parkes said the while industry doesn’t want to reduce wages, they should be capped so businesses don’t have to pay penalty rates for certain staff.

 

According to the figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, turnover in the hospitality sector was down $2 million in November compared to the same month in 2012.

 

The Australian Hotels Association says the sector has traditionally been strong, so it’s concerning to see it going the way.

 

“The same number of people just aren’t around and that, coupled with increased regulatory burden, is making it hard for businesses,” spokesperson Gwyn Rees says.

 

According to Rees, says there has been significant financial and regulatory burden placed on businesses over the past 18 months.

 

“These have included increases in annual liquor licensing fees, preparation of risk assessment plans, outdoor licensing restriction and fee increases, smoking management, coupled with increased wage costs.”

 

“Going through the next year, we need to see a lightening of the load.”

 

The groups’ comments come after claims made by celebrity chef George Calombaris, who said public holiday and weekend penalty rates could hurt his new venture, a restaurant in Melbourne.

 

Earlier this week, Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten challenged Calombaris’ argument, pointing out that waiters are some of the lowest paid employees in the country.

 

“Penalty rates compensate wait staff and others who have to work late nights, public holidays and weekends while everyone else gets to spend this time with family and friends,” Shorten said.

 

“We saw penalty rates and wages slashed under the Liberals’ extreme Work Choices laws... The Gillard Government won’t be adopting the low road of paying already low-paid workers less.”