The Executive Director of the Australian Retailers Association, Russell Zimmerman, said research finding over a third of businesses closed on Queensland’s partial Christmas Eve public holiday to avoid paying penalty rates vindicated the ARA’s position the holiday was a stunt that would deliver little for employees that should be axed.

Commenting on Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland’s Suncorp Pulse Survey, Mr Zimmerman said the ARA warned the government businesses would close or cut shifts, and said CCIQ data showed it was right.

“The Suncorp Pulse Survey found 35% of businesses closed to avoid unaffordable wage costs, and another 18% worked themselves and/or cut shifts for staff, which is exactly what we forecast,” Mr Zimmerman said.

“This election stunt – orchestrated by unions and the government – cost retail staff a lot of money at Christmas.”

He said an unknown number of businesses that were open would’ve had no choice, such as 24-hour operators.

Mr Zimmerman said the ARA appeared before a parliamentary Inquiry into the public holiday proposal last year, and – along with other employer groups – was berated for opposing the measure.

“We said it would cut employment, and it did; we said the arguments for it were that unions wanted it and that Labor did the same thing in another state. That isn’t a case for a new public holiday,” Mr Zimmerman said.

“We were chastised for not arguing the “merit” of a half-public holiday the government claimed existed, and our warning retailers would close or cut hours was dismissed. This sham Inquiry had a predetermined outcome. The CCIQ Suncorp Pulse Survey results clearly show our advice to the Inquiry was correct,” Mr Zimmerman said.

Mr Zimmerman said the ARA told the Inquiry challenges facing retailers – weak demand, high energy costs, low consumer confidence, red tape, online competition – were all reasons not to proceed, but this was ignored.

Mr Zimmerman called on both Labor and the opposition LNP to make a commitment ahead of the October state election that the Christmas Eve public holiday debacle of 2019 would be a one-off, and that it would be axed.

“At a time of relatively high unemployment in Queensland, with retailers facing unprecedented challenges, we call on the government to abandon this stunt, which has actually reduced employment,” Mr Zimmerman said.

“We’ll work with any government to benefit retailers and their staff; in this case, we’d like Queensland to put this error behind it so retailers don’t approach next Christmas with one arm tied behind their backs,” he concluded.

ENDS…for more details: Tim Janczuk (m) 0431 045 373 (e) media@retail.org.au

About us: founded in 1903, the Australian Retailers Association is Australia’s largest retail association, representing a $325bn sector employing more than 1.3m people. As Australia’s premier retail body, the ARA works to ensure retail success by informing, protecting, advocating, educating and saving money for its 7,500 independent and national retail members. To learn more, visit www.retail.org.au or call 1300 368 041.

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