Reducing penalty rates on Sunday may see more jobs in hospitality.
Reducing penalty rates on Sunday may see more jobs in hospitality. Contributed

650 Northern Rivers jobs at risk over penalty rates

HOSPITALITY jobs in the Northern Rivers could increase by more than 26% if Sunday rates were the same as Saturday rates, data from industry employer representatives shows.

Restaurant and Catering Australia paid Jetty Research to conduct a 2015 survey of 1,000 restaurant and cafe owners across Australia that found businesses would employ an extra 3.15 staff on weekends if Sunday rates were the same as Saturday rates.

Combining survey results with data Bugseye Consulting compiled from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, R&CA predicted that an extra 434 hospitality jobs could be created in the NSW federal electorate of Richmond (home to popular hospitality and tourism hotspot, Byron Bay) and an extra 229 in Page if weekend rates were streamlined.

Over half - 52% - of hospitality employers surveyed said they would hire extra staff if Sunday rates were the same as Saturday rates and 62% said they would invest in training.

Extra hours for the underemployed

Less than half - 41% - of business representatives said they would open longer under revised penalty rates but survey results found an average of 5.07 extra trading hours per business would be offered.

The extra trading time accounted for the suggested extra staffing opportunities and an averaged 1.5 hours of extra Sunday work for existing part-time or casual hospitality workers.

Mr Hart referred to underemployment data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics that found underemployed workers sought, on average, an extra 13.5 hours of work per week.

"Around 34 per cent of underemployed part-time workers aged 15-19 had experienced insufficient work for one year or more; this was compared to 56 per cent aged 45 years and over," said ABS Program Manager of Labour and Income Branch Jacqui Jones.

The ABS Participation, Job Search and Mobility Survey was compiled in February 2016 and released in early November.

"Held back" by 19th century wages approach: business chamber

"Some businesses in the Northern Rivers cannot afford to keep their doors open on Sundays, which means visitors cannot spend money and local workers miss out on work," said Acting Northern Rivers Business Chamber Chief Kellon Beard.

"This can have a devastating effect on our local economy.

"Reducing penalty rates on Sundays in the retail, restaurant and hospitality sectors will enable more businesses to open their doors on weekends, which means they have a greater opportunity to grow their business and employ more people.

"It's time we had a mature debate about the community's expectation of our hospitality industry.

"Customers expect near 24/7 service in a 21st century economy, but small business owners are being held back by a 19th century approach to wages."

R&CA chief a "shameless promoter" for bosses: union

"Cutting penalty rates will simply transfer money directly from the pocket of people working Sundays to their bosses," said NSW United Voice Liquor and Hospitality Secretary Tara Moriarty.

"The Restaurant and Catering Association's latest rhetoric is both self-serving and dishonest.

"The R&CA itself has said fewer than half of restaurants pay the appropriate rates of pay as it is.

"John Hart is a shameless promoter of the interests of restaurant owners, he should stop pretending to speak on behalf of anyone else."

Last week United Voice issued a statement calling on employers to commit to existing rates "regardless of any decision by the Fair Work Commission in the protracted weekend penalty rates case".

"Not about abolishing penalty rates": R&CA CEO

Restaurant and Catering Australia Chief John Hart said "workers deserve to be compensated for working unsociable hours" but wanted Sunday penalty rates to fall in line with Saturday rates for workers covered by two federal awards: the Restaurant Industry Award and Fast Food Industry Award.

The Hospitality Industry Award, another key federal award, was not included in Mr Hart's renewed call for reform.

"This is not about abolishing penalty rates," he said.

"It is about reducing the penalty on Sundays only to create jobs."

"We need to balance the interests of existing workers with the need to create more jobs and more work for people who want it.

"The Fair Work Commission has the responsibility to both groups of Australians."

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