SMALL businesses in the Baw Baw region say they will be forced to reduce staff and impose surcharges during the two new public holidays recently introduced by the state government.
First published in the 10 April 2015 edition of the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen. Dates below are relative to that publication date.
Following election promises to do so, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has established Easter Sunday and Grand Final Eve as official days off.
But local shop owners are concerned about the affordability of penalty rates they are required to pay their employees for working on public holidays.
The owner of BANK Coffee House and Wine Bar in Warragul, Declan Flannery, said the parliament had “no common sense.”
“The backbenchers obviously don’t own a small business,” Mr Flannery told the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen.
Mr Flannery said the business would have to place a large surcharge on both food and drinks or only serve drinks to make opening on the new holidays viable.
The Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VECCI) has estimated the sum of additional wages or compensation from the new holidays would add up to almost $650 million.
VECCI has recommended penalty rates be altered so businesses could save money and employ people for more hours.
The business lobby group’s executive, Mark Stone, said in a media release the holidays will “result in both lost productivity and higher wage costs for small business at a time when many are facing difficult trading conditions.”
Wages calculated with the public holiday penalty rates could increase by up to 50 per cent for Easter Sunday and 150 per cent for the day before Grand Final Day.
Local Labor MP Harriet Shing said the new public holidays were important to ensure workers were fairly compensated for missing family recreation time.
“We went to the election with some very clear commitments about striking a balance between work time and family time,” Ms Shing told the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen.
“The Easter Sunday public holiday commitment that was just implemented last weekend was a really important part of that.
“Where [workers are] required to work during a period where people might otherwise be on holiday or celebrating with family that they’re paid accordingly, and that’s what penalty rates do.”
Narracan Liberal MP Gary Blackwood said Labor had neglected how these holidays will affect small, country businesses.
“Regional Victoria will gain no real advantage from a Grand Final Eve public holiday,” Mr Blackwood said.
Most store owners approached for this story were not aware of the introduction of a Grand Final Eve public holiday.
One proprietor said they would have to work during the public holiday by themselves to avoid the penalty rates and it was “just another excuse for a public holiday.”
Others said they would have to considerably cut down on who would work.
Approximately 30 per cent of the Australian population attended an AFL game last year.
Owner of the O&H Bar in Warragul, Daniel Bertacco said it was impossible to know if there would be enough business during Grand Final Eve to make the decision to remain open feasible.
Baw Baw Shire CEO Helen Anstis said the council had received a request from a local business for the issue to be raised in the next Business Advisory Board meeting.
“This is a state decision and council will comply with its obligations as an employer,” Ms Anstis said.
Ms Shing said she hoped business owners would see the new Grand Final Eve holiday as an opportunity.
“I’m looking forward to a number of regional initiatives being rolled out so that everyone can get into the spirit of the game that Victoria claims as its own,” she said.
That should hopefully translate to better sales for businesses in the region while people come together to enjoy the festivities.”
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