The Wagga Business Chamber president has refuted claims the city’s economy will suffer if proposed changes to retail and hospitality workers’ penalty rates are put into effect.
It comes after a report revealed Riverina’s retail workforce faces a potential $22.8 million loss each year if the changes are enacted.
The McKell Institute report estimated a partial cut in penalty rates could cull workers’ disposable income up to $6.6m a year, which the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees' Association said would normally be put back into the local economy.
The SDA met with concerned workers at the Mecure Hotel on Thursday.
Kirsty Main, a part-time employee at Woolworths, Kooringal said she had no choice but to work weekends, and expected compensation for working unsociable hours.
“I work every second Saturday and every Sunday,” Ms Main said, adding she would be happy to work other hours if they were offered to her, but opportunities were limited.
”People can say we choose to work these hours, but I’ve worked with the same company for 10 years and I can’t get a full-time job,” she said.
“I work these hours because I have to – it’s all that’s available to me.”
Business chamber president Tim Rose said people in Ms Main’s position need to have an open discussion with their employer to find a workable solution.
“Employers are people, too. They understand people have individual needs,” Mr Rose said, adding a change in penalty rates would increase flexibility.
He said reducing Sunday penalties would allow small businesses to be able to remain viable in an increasingly competitive segment.
“There will be more opportunity for businesses to make money,” Mr Rose said.
SDA NSW branch assistant secretary Robert Tonkli said the proposed cuts would be detrimental to the region.
“People rely on weekend penalty rates to compensate them for missing time with family and friends and to ensure they can pay their bills,” Mr Tonkli said.
“Slashing the take-home pay of workers would mean thousands of Riverina residents will have less money to spend in local shops and businesses.
“It’s not just bad for workers, it’s bad for business.”
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