Retailers, fast food chains and pharmacies may be forced to axe their staff or
reduce hours if the ‘modernisation of award rates’ for employees goes

The new award conditions, outlined by the Australian Industry
Relations Commission (AIRC) are to come into effect from January 1, 2010 and
will see retail and pharmacy employers pay higher penalty rates, such as
double-time on Sundays instead of time-and-a-half as it is currently.

“It is
a bit of a blow to small business,” says Dora Tsolakis of
Meli Market in Northcote to Neos Kosmos English Edition (NKEE).

customer service doesn’t lack as employers can’t afford to keep people on and
perhaps small business may consider closing doors on Sundays to avoid paying
penalty rates.”

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia national president Kos Sclavos
predicts that this action will impose total wage increases of up to 22 per cent
in the pharmacy sector and has called on Julia Gillard and the AIRC to make
amendments to the legislation.

He believes this issue will affect the Greek
community, adding that eight per cent of pharmacies are owned by Greek

“It is a tough fiscal environment so if there is an increase in
wages we will be forced to sack people, reduce our trading hours or reduce our
services,” he said.

“The award rates need to reflect the industry- our
trading hours are not normal. We call on Julia Gillard to extend her
intervention to ensure that the high service sector and long trading hours of
community pharmacy remain.”

He referred to the letter that Julia Gillard sent
last week to the AIRC with the request to treat restaurants, cafes and catering
businesses separately from hotels as part of its overhaul of industrial awards.

“Cafes and restaurants can increase their prices to make up for the wage
increases but 70 per cent of pharmacy remuneration is from prescriptions in
which we can’t change the prices.”

Whilst the Government has encouraged the
AIRC to use a five-year transition period with the aim of allowing businesses to
absorb extra overtime payments, Sclavos also indicated that the union had called
for the transition period to be reduced to under a year.