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Industry push for overtime, penalty rate changes in Fair Work review

Big business group the Australian Industry Group has backed a review of overtime and holiday pay and conditions, while the Australian Retailers Association said it is more focused on Sunday penalty rates that are impacting on small retailer’s viability.

According to a story in The Age newspaper this week, big business is pushing for modern-award provisions for workers to surrender overtime pay and instead get time off, while the union representing the nation’s retail staff wants workers to get a day off when a public holiday falls outside their five-day week.

The submissions have been lodged with the Fair Work Commission, which is reviewing pay and conditions across the 122 modern awards that cover many Australian workers.

The Australian Industry Group said clauses allowing time off in lieu of payment for overtime were critical to provide businesses with much-needed flexibility, a provision it said was already commonly included in other Australian workplace deals.

ARA executive director Russell Zimmerman said it is focused on some bigger areas of concern such as Sunday penalty rates and will be making some submissions to Fair Work for a reduction in penalty rates and other areas of concern such as a union push to change pay rates for 18-19-year olds.

“We are working with a number of retailer organisations and will be active in relation to penalty rates,” he said.

“Some retailers in country areas have told us that if they can close stores on Sundays they will do this, and it will lead to a loss of jobs at a time when the unemployment rate (almost 15%) for young people is at its highest in 12 years.”

Mr Zimmerman said a retailer in a suburban Sydney shopping centre who is forced to open on Sundays bears a negative 7% cost above normal takings due to double-time penalty rates.

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