Cleaning up

It seems many employers in the hospitality industry are struggling to understand conditions imposed by the Restaurant, Tearoom, and Catering Workers’ Award, as Julie-anne Sprague discovered.

MORE than two thirds of 312 restaurants inspected since the Department of Consumer Employment and Protection’s hospitality education and compliance campaign was launched last November were found to have breached the award system.

This has prompted restaurants to take a second glance at their books, with many not knowing where to go to find out about changes to the awards. Others are curious as to why the award pay rates seem to be constantly escalating.

Since February 2001 the rate of pay as stipulated in the Restaurant, Tearoom, and Catering Workers’ Award has risen every six months, but according to Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union WA branch secretary Dave Kelly, this has been a graduated process to bring WA pay rates up to date.

“That award wasn’t updated for about 10 years and it lagged behind the comparative awards in the other States,” Mr Kelly said.

“In December 1999 one of the first things we did, after the liquor trades union joined us, was write to the employees that are respondents to the award to notify them, met with the Australian Hotels Association and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA.

“We came up with a package of recommendations that was agreed upon and put into place early last year. That didn’t put all the increases in at once. It has been a staggered process, with the last increase coming into effect in July 2003.”

Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA director of industrial relations services Geoff Blyth said variations to awards often occured without employers’ knowledge, as did wage increases such as the national minimum rates of pay.

“There was a long list of changes, including a new wage rate, new classification system, annual leave changes and hours of work over the past two to three years,” he said.

“It has been a general increase of $20 to $30 per week.

“Restaurants need to be aware that there is another award wage increase on July 1. Those changes have been happening in six-month increments, but adding to this is the State wage increase. From August 1 this year the minimum wage increase comes into effect.”

The State award minimum wage will rise $18 a week to $431.40.

The increase comes after the WA Industrial Relations Commission decided to pass on the national wage increase granted by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission earlier this year to workers in WA.

A spokesman for Consumer and Employment Protection Minister John Kobelke said the DOCEP was continuing to visit restaurants in both metro and regional areas in what was primarily an employer education campaign.

“These education and compliance campaigns are mainly about informing employers of their obligations,” he said.

“The campaign therefore only includes a random check of the last 12 months to enable the Labour Relations Division of DOCEP to cover as many employers in the industry as possible.”

While DOCEP is initially only investigating the past 12 months, the spokesman said that did not guarantee an investigation wouldn’t go back six years.

“The employers are requested to rectify any breaches with all their employees for the 12-month period and meet all future obligations,” the spokesman said.

“This does not prevent an employee from making their own complaint and therefore the inspectors are required to advise the employer that these corrections for the 12-month period do not prevent such claims. Employers are informed that if a claim is made, they can be made as far back as six years.

“Where an employer does not provide any records and refuses to comply with requests, they are then warned they could be subject to a full audit going back up to six years. This is done only as a last resort.”

There are several options for employers wanting to know more about the award and what their obligations are.

Mr Blyth said the CCI WA provided an updating service for members.

“CCI give day-to-day advice and give courses aimed at small business operators that talk about the award system and how it works,” Mr Blyth said.

DOCEP’s spokesperson said changes to the awards were generally advertised in The West Australian newspaper and were available from a subscriber e-mail service by the DOCEP and displayed on the department’s website

Mr Kelly said employers could call Wageline to tell them about the award rates and when they were being phased in. Wagline’s number is 1300 655 266 and is available Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5pm.

Wage increases to take effect on July 1

Casual loadings will remain at 23 per cent from Monday-Friday but will increase from 35 per cent to 40 percent. Public holiday loadings will increase from 110 per cent to 115 per cent.

By July 2003 penalty rates on Saturday and Sunday will double from 25 per cent to 50 per cent.

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