ARA Executive Director’s note

With February almost at a close, the ARA has continued its momentum, having been involved in a number of issues for the betterment of the Australian retail industry.

As most retailers may be aware, the ARA has been involved in a review of the Modern Award with Fair Work, with a view to reducing Sunday penalty rates from the current double time payment (200 percent) to time and half (150 percent).

I am pleased to say, that this is the closest the retail industry has ever been to winning a major reduction in penalty rates. If the industry wins the Modern Award case, the savings will be significant for all retailers, regardless of whether your business operates under the General Retail Industry Award (GRIA) or has an EBA for employees.

It is estimated that a victory would see a small retailer expect to save between $4,500 and $6,000 a year, with a chain of 80 stores to see savings of approx. $360,000 to $480,000.

Despite the ARA’s exhaustive efforts to finance this ground-breaking and industry changing case via industry contributions, we have unfortunately run into a shortfall in funds. As a result, the ARA and the industry working group is seeking voluntary donations from all Australian retail businesses.

To progress to this stage, with such an unprecedented level of success, should the case be allowed to falter at this late stage, it would have dire ramifications for both the change of a reduction of penalty rates in the foreseeable future, and the retail industry’s credibility.

For a one off lump sum to fill the shortfall in funding for the case, all retailers will be able to offset this small cost against the savings for many years.

Should you wish to donate a small (or large!) amount to this fight, please click here to access the Modern Award Review Pledge Form. Please note that all donations are tax deductible.

In completely unrelated finance matters, Australia is about to see some major changes in both cash and card payments.

On September 1, 2016, the rollout of new look currency will begin, with the launch of a new $5 note (New Generation bank notes). It is the first of the notes, with a new note for each denomination expected to be introduced each year (ie. $10 in 2017, $20 in 2018 etc).

For retailers, this will mean educating staff on the look, feel and features of the new notes. The ARA will have further information on this closer to September.

In terms of card payments, following on from recommendations made by the RBA as part of the Financial Systems Inquiry (FSI) in December, the Government has this week passed the Competition and Consumer Amendment (Payment Surcharges) Bill in Senate.

This Bill will give the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) new powers to enforce bans on excessive card surcharging, including the ability to gather information from those involved in the payments process and authority to issue infringement notices.

If the ACCC forms the view that a merchant has engaged in excessive surcharging, it may issue an infringement notice with fines up to $108,000 for contraventions.

This is the first of a raft of expected changed off the back of the report, with others to include a standard that will set the permitted surcharge for payments.

On that note, I wish all retailers the best in trade for the coming month.

Russell Zimmerman
ARA Executive Director

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