THE Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell has welcomed a Federal Court ruling that Megasave Couriers Australia Pty Ltd (Megasave) misled prospective franchisees.
Ms Carnell applauded the ACCC for taking action against Megasave, following a number of franchisee complaints to the Ombudsman’s office.
“I congratulate the ACCC for bringing proceedings against Megasave,” Ms Carnell said.
“This action taken by the regulator has resulted in the Federal Court’s judgement that Megasave breached Australian Consumer Law as well as the disqualification of Megasave’s sole director Gary Bourne from managing a corporation for five years.
“This outcome will be welcomed by the impacted franchisees who have suffered significant financial hardship and distress due to Megasave’s failure to fulfil its promises.
“More than 30 franchisees approached my office for assistance in late 2019, having spent as much as $27,500 to buy into the Megasave franchise.
“The franchisees raised a number of concerns including Megasave’s failure to pay guaranteed minimum weekly payments of around $2,000," Ms Carnell said.
“My office provided dispute resolution assistance to the franchisees under the Franchise Code of Conduct, including facilitating a group mediation.
“Aspects of the matter were referred by my office to the ACCC for its consideration and we assisted with the ACCC’s investigation.
“I encourage franchisees who believe they have been misled by a franchisor or in a franchise dispute to contact my office for assistance.”
Penalties and compensation for the affected Megasave franchisees is expected to be determined in a hearing next month.
A DEAL reportedly struck between unions and employer groups, that would allow retail business owners to offer part time workers more shifts without having to pay them overtime, will help generate more profit for businesses if approved by the Fair Work Commission (FWC).
Under the agreement led by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia COSBOA), a part-time employee can be offered extra shifts beyond nine hours per week at their ordinary rate of pay without incurring penalty rates (up to a maximum of 38 hours a week). Currently, part-time workers are entitled to overtime if their boss makes them work beyond their normal contracted hours.
The deal, which will be submitted to the Fair Work Commission, contrasts with the Federal Government’s current proposal to allow part-time employees who work at least 16 hours a week to agree to work additional hours at their ordinary rate of pay subject to other overtime provisions in the relevant award. It also requires a shift be at least three hours long.
“This proposed change, if approved, will help employers keep their current staff on for longer, and eliminate the need to hire additional casual workers to do the same job at a slightly higher rate,” Employsure business partner Emma Dawson said. Employsure is Australia’s largest workplace relations advisor to more than 28,000 small and medium-sized enterprises.
“Currently, employers are hesitant to offer part-time workers more hours due to the overtime payable if a contract variation is not agreed. Along with benefiting the employer, this proposed change will also benefit those part time workers, who may not have previously been given those extra hours as a result.”
If passed by the FWC, the deal will greatly affect retail employers, who have had to carefully pick and choose the number and type of workers they can have on, due to the downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The General Retail Industry Award has recently seen its final planned increase to casual weekday evening rates, giving casual workers who work hours after 6PM on Monday to Friday a minimum hour rate of 150 percent (inclusive of casual loading).
Employers looking to avoid paying those more expensive casual wages on a typical late-night shopping night, would be able to ask their current part time staff to work longer, while avoiding the extra penalty rates if the FWC approves the deal.
“Many employers who were hoping to take on extra casuals over the Christmas and summer period simply weren’t able to as a result of those increased penalty rates. Some were also stretched to breaking point due to having to pay overtime to part timers working beyond their contracted hours,” Ms Dawson said.
THE Federal Government must seize on the recommendations of the Aged Care Royal Commission to establish a permanent and sustainable funding source, by increasing the Medicare levy, according to the Health Services Union (HSU).
The HSU first proposed the measure in a submission to the Royal Commission last August. The HSU commissioned economic modelling which showed a 0.65 percent rise in the Medicare levy would raise $20.4 billion over four years, funding a pay rise, an additional 59,000 aged care jobs and close to 90 minutes of additional resident care per day.
The Commission has now taken up the suggestion, but it requires the support of the Federal Government in the May Budget to become a reality.
“A Medicare-style levy can transform aged care,” HSU national president Gerard Hayes said. “Just like Medicare this could make the system simpler, cheaper and fairer.
“With a guaranteed and sustainable funding stream, we could increase the size of the workforce and pay them more so they stay in the industry. This would trigger a quantum leap forward in quality of care for residents.
“Everyone deserves dignity in their later life but it requires decisive action from Government to become a reality.
“This crisis has festered for years. Now is the time for action.”
Work value case:
- In November, the Health Services Union launched a landmark work value case in the Fair Work Commission to lift wages for the aged care workforce by 25 percent.
- If the case succeeds, over 200,000 personal carers, activities officers, catering, cleaning, and administration workers would see their pay rise by at least $5 an hour.
- The starting rate for a personal carer is currently $21.96 per hour, and the average carer retires with $18,000 in superannuation
- If the HSU claim succeeds a qualified personal carer would see their wages increase from $23.09 to $28.86 an hour. The HSU claim also seeks to build in career paths and to recognise specialist carers in areas like dementia or palliative care.
- The HSU released economic modelling in September which showed a 0.65 percent rise in the Medicare levy would raise $20.4 billion over four years, funding a pay rise, an additional 59,000 aged care jobs and close to 90 minutes of additional resident care per day.
THE inquiry into the destruction of Indigenous heritage sites at Juukan Gorge will be looking at Indigenous heritage protection in the Northern Territory, with a public hearing by videoconference today.
Northern Australia Committee chair Warren Entsch noted that heritage protections in the Northern Territory were some of the strongest in Australia, though this did not always lead to successful outcomes.
"The committee is aware of concerns raised by Traditional Owners about the expansion of the McArthur River mine and the threat this poses to sacred waterholes," Mr Entsch said.
"It is important that the protections offered under heritage legislation can’t simply be circumvented by recourse to other laws."
In its submission, the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority observed, "The Northern Territory Aboriginal Sacred Sites Act 1989 (NT), which stems from the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth) (Land Rights Act), presents a model that should be adopted nationally and in all States and Territories. Importantly the Northern Territory framework encompasses the principles of free prior and informed consent."
The Central Land Council also highlighted the success of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, but argued, "There is need for other legislation to give Traditional Owners protection on land where free, prior and informed consent to development is not afforded, including on land subject to native title."
The Central Land Council recommended improvements to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984, "so that it can be an effective measure of last resort for Indigenous people throughout Australia, and can set minimum standards for State and Territory legislation".
Other witnesses include archaeologist Karen Martin-Stone, GetUp, the National Environmental Law Association and Australia ICOMOS.
A program for the public hearing is available on the Committee’s website.
Public hearing details
Date: Tuesday, 2 March 2021
Time: 9am to 4pm AEDT
Location: by video/teleconference
The hearing will be broadcast live at aph.gov.au/live.
Further details of the inquiry, including terms of reference, can be found on the Committee’s website.