“Today a Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission will hear final arguments in relation to an Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) application to vary the Fast Food Industry Award to implement a number of sensible, short-term changes aimed at saving businesses and jobs during the COVID-19 crisis,” Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the national employer association Ai Group said today.
“The changes are supported by the Australian Government and were negotiated with the ACTU and the Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers’ Union – the main union that represents fast food employees.
“The fast food industry is very diverse. There are major businesses as well as a very large number of small businesses. Many small businesses are part of franchise networks.
“The industry has been particularly hard-hit by the Pandemic. On 5 May 2020, the ABS reported that the Accommodation and Food Services industry (of which the Fast Food Industry is a part) had lost more than one in three paid jobs (33.4%) between 14 March and 18 April.
“The proposed award changes would apply only to employers and employees that are not entitled to the JobKeeper scheme. They would provide increased flexibility in the areas of:
- Part-time employment;
- Annual leave; and
- Close downs.
“The changes are targeted at stemming job losses in the face of what is currently an extraordinarily difficult trading environment because of the Pandemic.
“The variations will allow employers to ask employees to take annual leave where it will assist in avoiding job losses, albeit with a right for employees to refuse the request on reasonable grounds, and to require employees to take leave when they temporarily close their business because of the Pandemic.
“These changes are similar to amendments recently made to various other awards, including those covering the hospitality and restaurant industries.
“Crucially, the proposal relating to part-time employment will only operate with an employee’s agreement. The changes will allow employers and employees to agree on arrangements that temporarily permit greater flexibility around precise start and finish times and will assist employers to offer part-time employees additional hours of work where the opportunity arises.
“These short-term measures would only operate temporarily and are sought in direct response to the current COVID-19 crisis. They will help businesses to keep people in work during what are very difficult and uncertain times for this sector.
“The Retail and Fast Food Workers ‘Union’ is opposing the sensible changes that have been agreed upon and is trying to beat-up publicity for its position. This group is not a union under Australia’s industrial laws and has a long track record of trying to disturb cooperative arrangements reached between employers and employees,” Mr Willox said.