25/06/2002 - 22:00

New EBA option for shopkeepers

25/06/2002 - 22:00

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MORE than 5,000 small retailers around Perth could soon be getting information on a new enterprise bargaining agreement to cover their industry.There are an estimated 6,500 small retailers in Perth.

New EBA option for shopkeepers

MORE than 5,000 small retailers around Perth could soon be getting information on a new enterprise bargaining agreement to cover their industry.

There are an estimated 6,500 small retailers in Perth.

WA Retailers Association chief executive officer Martin Dempsey, and Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association of WA secretary Joe Bullock have been in negotiations regarding the agreement for the past week.

Once the details are finalised the 5,000-plus small retailers, listed on a database to which Mr Dempsey has gained access, will be sent information on the agreement.

It is estimated each one of these shopkeepers employs three staff on average.

Mr Dempsey said he had approached the union regarding the enterprise agreement because he wanted to provide small shopkeepers with some “certainty, comfort and peace of mind”.

His organisation is a member of the Coalition of Business Associations, which has been strongly opposed to the WA Government’s proposed industrial relations system.

One of the key parts of the Government’s bill is the abolition of workplace agreements, which provided a great deal of flexibility to small retailers – particularly those who operate seven days a week.

Mr Dempsey said he had been forced to step away from COBA on IR because he felt negotiation with the union was the only way forward for small retailers.

“Many of these small businesses cannot enter into the Federal industrial relations system because they are not incorporated,” he said.

“The new WA industrial relations environment will be award-based and the current award is 84 pages long and has a lot of traps for small shopkeepers.

“I hope to get the agreement down to a document that is much simpler to use, but also one that provides some flexibility for seven-day-a-week businesses.”

Mr Dempsey said shopkeepers would have to become WA Retailers Association members if they wanted to take up the EBA offer.

Mr Bullock admitted the agreement could give his union access to potentially more than 15,000 new members.

“However, I suspect that will only be a marginal reward for us. Going out and chasing members three at a time is probably not the most efficient way for us,” he said.

Mr Bullock said his union had been negotiating with a number of independent retailers such as Dewsons since February and the agreement struck with them was serving as the model for his discussions with Mr Dempsey.

He said the award covering retail was a sound document but believed that a number of shop-keepers were not following it.

IR advocate Oliver Moon said the EBA approach could turn out to be beneficial for small shop-keepers but admitted he had concerns about it.

“Small retailers have problems competing with larger retailers because those bigger shops have negotiated deals with the unions to get a better result. From that point of view there could be benefits,” Mr Moon said.

“However, this approach could also end up producing long-term problems on issues that they were perhaps naïve about. They may be trading away things that seem innocuous but turn out to be vital later on.

“It also gives the union a virtual licence to force this EBA on whoever it can force to sign it.”

Retail Traders Association manager Brian Reynolds said any retailers given information on the EBA should examine all alter-natives as to what employment arrangements they could ultimately put in place once the Government’s IR bill became law.

“There are a variety of options available to businesses depending on their legal structure,” Mr Reynolds said. “One difficulty with union-negotiated deals is that they take a one-size-fits-all approach and may not suit every business.”

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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