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Wages, super to rise

Tuesday, 10th June, 2014

By Nick Gibbs

A number of industrial relations changes will require local businesses to rethink their operations, according to the Broken Hill Chamber of Commerce.

Executive Officer Anne Bransdon described new measures regarding leave loading and superannuation contributions due to take effect July 1 as significant regarding staffing issues and trading hours.

Under the changes, Sunday penalty rates will be reduced from 175 percent to 150 percent of regular pay, and employers will generally be required to contribute more to employee super.

“Some local businesses weren’t aware of the change in penalty rates,” Ms Bransdon said.

The comments follow the Fair Work Commission’s decision to raise the minimum wage by $18.70 per week.

Ms Bransdon said gauging whether the rise in the minimum wage would be counteracted by decreased penalty rates would help determine whether local cafes and hotels considered Sunday trade viable. 

“Is the pay rise going to be offset by the decrease in penalty rates?” she said.

The changes highlight the need for local businesses to stay abreast of legislative changes or face considerable repercussions.

Failing to pay employees under the correct award or contribute appropriate superannuation could result in business owners facing considerable fines, according to Ms Bransdon.

She said one of the advantages of membership to the Chamber was having up to date access to the latest changes, but pointed out the cost of joining was another overhead to weigh up.  

“A lot of businesses use the Chamber as insurance,” she said.

The pivotal revisions of employee wages and benefits come as membership to trade unions in Australia hit their lowest point in over ten years. 

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, membership has been steadily declining over the last decade.

In 2003, 23 percent of workers reported being trade union members in their primary occupation.

This figure has decreased progressively to reach the rate of 17 percent as of August last year.

Local Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) Vice President Greg Braes said membership numbers had remained steady in recent years.

“We’ve been fairly stable with our numbers over the last six years,” he said.

The biggest threat to local union membership is the number of employees in the workforce.

Mr Braes said the CFMEU underwent its biggest losses in recent memory after mining company Perilya laid off around 440 workers in 2008.

“We probably lost around 150 members after that,” he said. 

An unstable economic climate also caused young workers to make finding a job their number one priority. 

“For a young fella coming through, getting a job is the main thing,” Mr Braes said. 

“All the union is, is a collective group of people with a similar view.”

Although the majority of CMFEU members locally are on the mines and unaffected by the minimum wage increase, he commented that the $18.70 per week rise would not make a significant impact on the country’s lowest paid workers.

“It must be very hard to support a family on those wages,” he said. 

Generally speaking, he felt any increase to the minimum wage would be injected back into the economy through increased commerce, acting as a stimulus for the hospitality and retail industries.

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