ARA Welcomes Prime Minister’s plans for Vocational Education and Industrial Relations Reform to boost productivity

The ARA has welcomed Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s calls for simplification of the Award system in his National Press Club address today, alongside a focus on vocational skills and training as a necessary boost to business and the economy.

ARA CEO Paul Zahra said the retail landscape is rapidly evolving and the industrial relations and vocational education frameworks must keep pace.

“We live in a world where Australians can choose to shop 24/7. Retailers need to be able to operate flexibly to meet the demands of their customers. When they are constrained by outdated regulation and training, it negatively impacts Australians, retailers and their employees.

“The current Retail Award has us locked into a rigid and outdated system of inflexible hours. where retailers are unable to honor the working needs and preferences of their teams,” said Mr Zahra.

Mr Zahra said the ARA would like to see more allowance for flexibility and a more pragmatic and balanced approach on issues such as penalty rates and trading hours. The ARA supports a structure where penalties are only applied when an individual is working outside their preferences.

“The complexity of the current Award system is creating a substantial amount of the challenges that we are seeing. There are hundreds of rates of pay that can apply under the retail award, related to such areas as: the role the employee is performing, their tasks, their age and, most critically, the way they work their hours,” said Mr Zahra.

Mr Zahra also highlighted the opportunity to stimulate employment through training.

“COVID-19 has accelerated retail transformation as we are operating in a consumer landscape that is active 24/7 through online and social channels and with multiple paths to the delivery of products and services. As businesses adapt to this new reality, they need a workforce that is equipped and ready to address these new opportunities.

“The current vocational training system is no longer fit for purpose, and we welcome a renewed focus which links funding with the skills that businesses really need.

“We also welcome the simplification of vocational education and training, with a consistent approach across the states. Current funding is inconsistent and a well funded system will help deliver the skills that strengthen productivity and employment.

“The ARA looks forward to continuing to work with government to shape the pathway towards a strong and sustainable retail recovery which is imperative to our economic recovery,” said Mr Zahra.

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