Penalty rates need overhaul

CEO of Sunshine Coast Destinations Limited Steve Cooper says cutting penalty rates will be 'win-win'.
CEO of Sunshine Coast Destinations Limited Steve Cooper says cutting penalty rates will be 'win-win'. Brett Wortman

COMPLAINTS about poor customer service and more businesses shutting their doors have prompted tourism chief Steve Cooper to call for a penalty rates overhaul.

The Sunshine Coast Destination CEO said it was time Federal politicians, Chambers of Commerce, the council and the tourism industry lobbied for change.

"We need new ways of doing business. The old award structure is not in sync with the needs of visitors," Mr Cooper said.

"Over the Easter holidays many of the most favoured tourist precincts were closed in one of the most buoyant periods of the season.

"There were incidents were customers had gone to visitor information centres and tourism officers and highlighted the less than adequate level of service."

Mr Cooper said in order for the Sunshine Coast - and the rest of Australia - to compete on the national stage "we have to get service right".

"Our competitors have never been fiercer".

Penalty rates require employers to pay up to 100% more for work on Sundays and up to 150% more for work on public holidays.

This has forced many restaurants and tourist facilities to cut their staff or close at a time high-paying tourists are in the region.

"We need to coordinate with one vision, the Coast can be pioneer in calling for change," Mr Cooper said.

He said it was important employees needs were also recognised in coming up with a solution that was "win-win".

Restaurant and Catering Queensland has long been championing this cause.

CEO John Hart said the group has already spent "$1.2 million fighting this" with a review before the Fair Work Australia Tribunal.

"The review has been in for six months, we will put in a case and it will run through in September," Mr Hart said.

The premier hospitality group has been arguing for an alternative to penalty rates.

"We are saying penalty rates should be moved from Saturdays and Sundays to the sixth and seventh day of work," Mr Hart said.

"The proposed scaled moves from a defined five days of the week to any five days of week, with penalty rates accrued any sixth or seventh day.

"For example, if you work Wednesday to Sunday, with Monday and Tuesday off, you wouldn't be entitled to penalty rates."

Mr Hart said the proposed change wouldn't only apply to full-timers, but also to part-timers within the bounds of modern awards.

These changes would not affect public holidays.

Catering Queensland was "developing an evidence profile to be used in prosecution" when the case runs through in September.

Trading conditions, in particular the effect on business which have to close on Sundays and public holidays, will be put forward.

"We will indicate that the current award is meaning staff are losing out. They are not able to work on those days because the business is closed," Mr Hart said.

"The industry is losing revenue."

Topics:  business penalty rates sunshine coast destination tourism

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