OUR SAY: Court ruling brings balance to the table for small businesses

FOR a food region, nothing could make more sense than making running a business easier for those who contribute to the industry.

The Federal Court’s decision earlier this week to reduce penalty rates for restaurant industry workers on Sundays does just that.

While employees already working on Sundays will lose about 14 per cent of their wages, and no one likes to take a pay cut, the economic benefits will be worth the pain.

Businesses that previously did not open on Sundays could decide to open, meaning extra patronage from their regulars, more shifts across the board and potentially more jobs.

Vicki Seccombe from the Central West Orana Business Chamber also pointed out, quite rightly, that extra trading hours would bring more activity to the CBD - Orange is certainly vulnerable to a lack of vibrance on Sunday afternoons when shops shut well before sundown.

If activity is increased in the restaurant sector and the incentive is there to open, there could also be positive flow-on effects for retail businesses that are not subjected to the Restaurant Industry Award. 

It is also astonishing how quickly WorkChoices has been forgotten - a reduction from the 75 per cent Sunday loading to a 50 per cent loading is still a far cry from the former Australian Workplace Agreements, when negotiation with employers was next to impossible for young casuals and penalty rates were not part of the mix at all. 

It is crucial to avoid a return to WorkChoices by any name - employees might have still arrived for their shifts during those 18 months, but in a developed nation it is important to maintain an employee’s rights at work and a pay cheque that recognises the time they put in.

But there should also be room for compromise so businesses can continue to hand out those pay cheques. This result in the Federal Court strikes that balance.


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