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.

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“This deal, if approved, will give business owners the flexibility where they need it the most, while also giving more certainty and protection to their current employees.
 
“It will allow employers to invest more into permanent jobs, particularly those in the hardest hit areas. With JobKeeper about to end for all businesses, this is one of many steps we need to take that will lead to better and faster economic recovery,” she concluded.

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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.”

 

Key facts:

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.

Funding reform:

  • 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.

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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-StoneGetUp, 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.

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HOME LENDING in Australia smashed more records in January thanks to the continued roll out of the HomeBuilder scheme.

“The first month of 2021 saw almost 10,000 loans being made to owner occupiers for the construction of a new home. This represents a gain of some 20.3 percent on December 2020, a month whose reign as strongest on record hasn’t lasted too long,” Master Builders Australia’s chief economist Shane Garrett said.

“The strength of the market can also be seen in other lending streams. The number of loans for newly-erected homes reached an all-time high during January, having increased by 28.6 per cent over the previous 12 months.

“The value of home renovations lending in January 2021 was also 47.4 percent up on the same month last year,” Mr Garrett said.

“The HomeBuilder scheme remains open until the end of March and this means that 2021 will be a busy year for residential building."

www.masterbuilders.com.au

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THE Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) has welcomed the Victorian Government’s weekend announcement that they will ban single-use plastics by 2023.

The Andrews Labor Government has stated the ban will include single-use plastic straws, cutlery, plates, drink stirrers, polystyrene food and drink containers, and plastic cotton bud sticks.

Victoria becomes the fifth Australian state or territory to commit to ban single-use plastics, with a ban on single-use plastic straws, cutlery and drink stirrers commencing today in South Australia, and the ACT, Queensland and Western Australian governments committing to introduce bans in the near future.

Shane Cucow, plastics spokesperson for the AMCS, welcomed the Andrews Government’s action as good news for Australia’s vulnerable ocean wildlife.

“We are pleased to see the Victorian Government responding to the concerns of ocean lovers who have been crying out for action to save our whales and wildlife," Mr Cucow said.

“By joining states like South Australia and banning lethal plastics like straws, cutlery and polystyrene food and beverage containers, Victoria will become a leader in the fight against plastic.

“For years we have seen shocking incidents of wildlife hurt by plastics, such as whales washing up on our beaches with stomachs full of plastic, or mother birds feeding plastics to their chicks.

“With safe, earth friendly alternatives now available, it’s time to ditch these killer plastics and stop the flow of plastic into our oceans once and for all."

Mr Cucow urged the Victorian Government to move quickly, and accelerate their timeline for implementation.

“For years we have known about this crisis. Every day we wait, more animals are killed by the plastic entering our oceans," he said.

“Two more years is a long time to wait for action to stop these preventable deaths. With South Australia’s ban commencing today, and Queensland and the ACT expected to act this year, the time to act is now.

www.amcs.og.au

 

Background

South Australia’s ban on single-use plastics commences today, officially becoming the first Australian state or territory to outlaw plastic straws, drink stirrers and cutlery. On March 1, 2022 polystyrene food and beverage containers and oxo-degradable plastics will also be banned. See government release here.

Queensland’s Parliament is currently considering a bill to ban single-use plastic straws, cutlery, drink-stirrers and disposable plastic plates/bowls. Details here.

The ACT Parliament is currently considering a bill to ban single-use plastic cutlery, drink stirrers and polystyrene food and beverage containers, with the government indicating it would commence on July 1, 2021. See government release here.

The WA Government has committed to phase out single-use plastic plates, straws, cutlery, drink stirrers, heavyweight plastic bags, polystyrene food containers and helium balloon releases by 2023. Details here.

The New South Wales Government recently completed public consultations that canvassed the idea of a ban on single-use plastics. They are yet to announce their plans.

Tasmania and the Northern Territory have made no commitments to ban single-use plastics.

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