‘Business Class Warfare’ hits SMEs

Peter Strong, the executive director of the Council of Small Businesses Australia (COSBOA), told the National Press Club on July 1 that too often decisions that affect us all are being made or manipulated by just a few institutions, businesses and individuals, which he described as business class warfare.

“In the last 12 months we have seen a sea-change where small businesses are considered differently and separately from big business, and don’t the business ruling class hate it,” Mr Strong said.

COSBOA’s 32 member organisations embrace some 600,000 small business people and represent many and varied industry sectors and are run by people who are wise, experienced, informed and too often ignored, he said.

On penalty rates, Mr Strong argued that when he owned a Canberra bookshop, he had to pay double time to employees on Sundays, while Coles, Woolworths or McDonalds only paid time and half on a Sunday.

“We know that the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA), is the largest union in Australia. We know that over 90% of SDA members are to be found in Wesfarmers and Woolworths or their subsidiaries,” he said.

After the SDA fought hard to get double time on Sundays, it then negotiated an agreement with Coles and Woolworths that saw their members receive time and half on Sundays. Mr Strong said that this decision meant small businesses didn’t open on Sundays, giving the duopoly greater market share and increasing SDA membership.

Mr Strong took a swipe at big retail landlords. “The biggest landlords are corporate parasites who manipulate urban planning processes so that their malls are the only place you can shop,” he said.

On corporate regulator the ACCC, he said that for ten long years (pre Rod Sims) it was also part of the ruling class and treated small business people with contempt.

“But the current chairman of the ACCC, Rod Sims, has bought professionalism, intellectual depth and a backbone to the ACCC, and don’t the ruling classes hate it,” Mr Strong added.

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