New laws may force lo­cal busi­nesses to close

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - HOLLY ROBERT­SON

LO­CAL restau­ra­teurs say new award wage rules are hurt­ing their bot­tom line and could force some eater­ies to close on Sun­days.

The Fed­eral Govern­ment im­ple­mented penalty rate in­creases for hos­pi­tal­ity work­ers on July 1 as part of a five-year award mod­erni­sa­tion plan an­nounced in 2008.

Sun­day hourly rates in­creased by 8 per cent, while pub­lic hol­i­day penalty rates jumped by 10 per cent.

Over the next five years the Sun­day shift penalty rate will al­most dou­ble and pub­lic hol­i­day load­ing will in­crease from 100 per cent to 150 per cent.

Di Sassi, who owns Sassi Cantina with her hus­band, Tony, said the changes would bat­ter on one of Port Dou­glas’ core in­dus­tries.

“Given that we are sea­sonal and re­gional and we are a seven-day a week so­ci­ety, the rates on Satur­day and Sun­day are ex­or­bi­tant,” she said.

Ms Sassi said the new rules would hurt op­er­a­tors in re­gional tourist towns harder than their ur­ban coun­ter­parts.

“We al­ready can’t com­pete with Asia - not that I think we should be pay­ing Asian wages - but this just makes us less com­pet­i­tive if we have to push prices up a lit­tle bit to cover the im­post,” she said.

Ms Sassi said the cou­ple were look­ing at clos­ing their res­tau­rant doors on Sun­days to avoid pay­ing high wages.

She called on the Fed­eral Govern­ment to re-think the changes.

“There al­ways were some penal­ties which we were hop­ing would be re­vised into a

more mod­er­ate po­si­tion, cer­tainly not into an ex­treme one like this,” she said.

Zinc and Finz restau­rants owner Marco Piat said he was still work­ing with res­tau­rant man­age­ment on the best pos­si­ble staffing model to meet the changes.

“To be hon­est it is go­ing to in­crease our costs and it will put into ques­tion trad­ing on Sun­days and pub­lic hol­i­days,” he said. But restau­rants are not the only ones be­ing hit hard by wage hikes.

Port Dou­glas Cham­ber of Com­merce restau­rants and re­tail spokesman Doug Calvert said re­tail­ers were strug­gling with sim­i­lar prob­lems.

Mr Calvert, who owns a num­ber of Port Dou­glas re­tail out­lets, said the Fair Work awards would push ca­sual work­ers’ rates to $50 an hour on pub­lic hol­i­days and $40 an hour on Sun­days by 2014.

“But it doesn’t mat­ter when you get there, it just mat­ters when you’re go­ing to have to close your doors,” he said.

“It’s just out­ra­geous - I’m re­ally an­gry over it and the im­pact is go­ing to be sig­nif­i­cant. If you em­ploy peo­ple like I do, and I’m just about to open a fourth shop, you’ve got to make a choice and my choice is to close the doors.”

Mr Calvert said small busi­ness own­ers had some re­course, how­ever, if they could show that em­ploy­ees would be no worse off un­der in­di­vid­ual work­place agree­ments as op­posed to the award.

“My ad­vice to busi­ness own­ers is to get some ex­pert ad­vice in this area be­cause there are some things they can do,” he said.

An ex­am­ple, Mr Calvert said, was by show­ing that em­ploy­ees would lose out if busi­nesses were forced to shut on cer­tain days to avoid high wage costs.

Staff wage in­creases: bel cibo owner/ owner/head chef Andy Gray is chang­ing the way he ap­proaches busi­ness

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