This submission to the education and employment references committee inquiry on penalty rates wishes to make the ACTU’s position clear.

  1.  The Australian retail sector, due to the higher than average rates on unionization, has, by international standards, among the best wages and conditions for retail sector workers.
  2. The Australian trade union movement supports the Better Off Overall test and seeks to ensure that it is consistently applied in order that workers may bargain with clarity.
  3. That the total dollar outcome for the hours worked is the outcome which most impacts workers take home pay.

The productivity commission inquiry into the economic structure and performance of the Australian retail industry (2011) found that Australian retail workers were paid, when all benefits were taken into account, 27% higher than comparable retail workers in the United States and 29% higher than retail workers in the UK.  This is additionally reinforced by the findings of a 2014 inquiry that found that, in real terms (2013 US dollars) the average hourly labour costs for Australian retail workers were around $5 an hour higher than UK workers and $7 higher than US workers. On this measure, Australian workers also outstripped those in Spain and were broadly comparable to workers in the Netherlands. Australian retail workers are, in real terms, among the best paid in the world.