Retail workers across Australia between the ages of 18 and 20 may receive pay increases of close to $2 an hour if the campaign to increase their wages being heard by the Fair Work Commision is successful.
The hearing, which began on 2 July in Melbourne, will be running until the end of July.
The campaign is backed by the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA), and calls for the General Retail Award to ensure 100% pay for 20-year-old retail workers. The SDA view this as a first step towards extending equal pay for adult teenagers, as well.
Currently, young retail workers are paid up to 30% less than the full rate.
“Workers deserve to be paid on their contribution to the workplace, not their age. In retail, by the time a worker has reached adulthood, they’ve often been in the industry for a number of years. They’re contributing 100%, just like their 21-year-old co-workers,” Joe de Bruyn, national secretary of the SDA, said.
Bruyn highlighted that many retailers are already paying young adults the full wage, and hopes the legal requirements can move to reflect the changes in the industry.
Bruyn sees the opposition towards equal pay as “scaremongering at its finest”.
“The excuses we’re seeing from some retailers for not paying younger workers fairly are disgraceful,” he stated. “It has been suggested that 18- 20-year-olds should be paid significantly less than their colleagues because they are unreliable, inexperienced and don’t deliver the same value to the workplace. We know that’s simply untrue and is offensive to the hardworking staff working to make the retail industry tick.”
Russell Zimmerman, executive director of the Australian Retailers Association (ARA), stated the decision to increase junior wages could damage retailers.
Zimmerman told current.com.au that lower pay rates is what has enabled retail employers to train up low-skilled staff and thereby reduce youth unemployment.
Zimmerman believes this push for equal pay will “only punish youth and small to medium retailers who can’t afford to make cosy agreements with the Union at a time when the sector is under significant cost pressure”.
“We’re hopeful common sense will prevail and this failure in our General Retail Industry Award can be rectified swiftly for the benefit of hundreds of thousands of younger workers and their families,” Bruyn said.
What are your thoughts on the pay increase? Will it help ensure more youth enter the workforce, or could it potentially damage businesses? If you had a choice between two candidates, one with years of experience and the other with limited experience, but you had to pay both the same wage to both, which would you choose?