Proposed laws offer industry food for thought

THE Government’s proposed changes to industrial relations laws will result in higher dining costs, poorer service, and perhaps restaurant closures on Sundays and public holidays, according to industry sources.

Restaurateurs are concerned the removal of workplace agreements will force them to pay award rates to their staff, which is a cost they feel they cannot bear.

A recent survey of 350 members by the Restaurant & Catering Industry Association of WA found that 86 per cent of the 28 respondents believed repealing workplace agreements would increase their operating costs, while 83 per cent said they would pass costs on to customers.

RCIA WA president, and owner of Simons Seafood Restaurant, Harry Ferrante said an unfair award structure had been imposed on the hospitality industry.

“We in the hospitality industry and especially the restaurant and hotel industry operate 24 hours a day seven days a week, and we are penalised by having an office hour award,” Mr Ferrante said.

“It is a long-term problem that we’re trying to work out with the Miscellaneous Workers’ Union. Slowly but surely there will be greater awareness and change.” Oriel Cafe and Brasserie director Loretta Evangelisti said her business would incur extra burdens that would be passed on to customers.

“We have estimated this change will add an extra 40 per cent to existing operational costs due to the nature of our business,” she said.

Greenwood Hotel managing director John Hall agreed running costs would increase and the changes would have a significant effect on small operators.

“The industry is on its knees. We can’t afford to absorb more costs. It’s becoming increasingly hard for small business,” he said.

However, Australian Hotels Association WA Branch executive director Bradley Woods said the association’s efforts had come far too late.

“There is an element of scaremongering going on,” he said.

“They didn’t get involved some 12 months ago and it’s only now that they have remembered their members and have thought to do something for them.”

Mr Woods said the majority of hotels and taverns, which are AHA members, already paid the award rate.

The AHA conceded that the award did not recognise the hospitality industry as a 24-hour seven-day-week operation.

“The reality is (that) if they’ve (restaurants and hotels) been paying under award wages for some time, they need to come to a reality that this is quickly coming to an end,” he said.

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