Coast businesses and pollies have a say on penalty rates

BUSINESSES on the Fraser Coast struggling to open their doors on Sundays have welcomed calls made by the Productivity Commission to reduce weekend penalty rates for staff.

For retail business owner Nettie Sutherland, who operates her women's clothing business from the Stockland Hervey Bay Shopping Centre, employing staff on a Sunday was not an option because of the costs.

Retail shop businesses are currently slugged with casual Sunday staff penalty rates of at least $37.98 an hour (based on flat rates of $23.74 applicable throughout the week).

"I am the only one to work Sundays as it is too expensive to put someone on," Ms Sutherland said.

The Productivity Commission's latest and final report was released in late December and said Sunday penalty rates were "excessive".

It stated small-to-medium sized businesses have had trouble transitioning to seven-day-trading.

That is all-too familiar for Maryborough business owner Shuping Pang, who runs Crepe Club six days a week.

"The (Sunday) rate is too high and we cannot afford it," she said. Ms Pang said she thought Sunday penalty rates weakened an already struggling economy, by forcing small businesses to shut up shop on the day's staff employment was too costly.

She said the local unemployment rate could be helped if penalty rates dropped and businesses could afford to open on Sunday.

Staff at Urangan's Bayswater Hotel said a loss in weekly earnings could hit employee hip-pockets hard.

Apprentice cook Michael Gibbs, 22, said he wouldn't like to work Sunday's if penalty rates were reduced.

"Sunday rates are the reason everyone loves working Sunday," he said.

"It helps out financially."

Maryborough MP Bruce Saunders said the idea to reduce the wages of those working in minimum wage jobs was "bad".

"(It is about) driving down people's wages and working people already have it very tough," Mr Saunders said.

"Where do we go from here... and where does it stop?"

He also said reduced earning capacity for low income earners could negatively affect local businesses in the long term, which defeated the purpose of reducing Sunday penalty rates.

Mr Saunders said those affected would be less likely to "shop local", preferring to spend dollars at multi-national companies that are able to stock foods and products at cheaper prices.

Topics:  penalty rates productivity

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