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Small business union looms

A UNION for small business owners is expected to come to fruition next week, providing an industrial avenue for the sector under the State’s new labour relations regime.

The union, The Small Business Association of Western Australia, has lodged an application to become a union of employers with the WA Industrial Commission.

Industrial relations advocates have opposed the move.

According to Small Business Association of Western Australia committee member Nick Catania, the association will help businesses form workable and equitable agreements with the unions.

“This association grew out of WA Council of Retailers, which I am part of, and this group and its members started to worry about the new IR laws and how we deal with it,” Mr Catania said.

“We decided to register with the industrial commission so that we can negotiate enterprise bargaining agreements for an industry or individual agreements for employers.”

The Combined Organisation of Small Business Association chief executive officer Oliver Moon said his organisation had several concerns and was hoping to determine a plan of action this week.

“There have been concerns raised by the members about this. If the Small Business Association is registered to have interaction with the union then there is the potential for unionisation of the sector,” he said.

Mr Moon said a major concern for COSBA was that many small businesses may unknowingly trade-off benefits with the union.

Mr Catania said registration with the WA Industrial Relations Commission was crucial under the new legislation.

Mr Moon was critical of the association’s name, suggesting that the official definition of ‘small business’ was an operation of 20 employees or less.

The association is offering its services to businesses with 100 employees or less. Mr Catania said that, while 90 per cent of its members would be businesses of five or fewer employees, the association wanted to offer its services to independent business operators, such as grocers, who had larger staffing levels.

He said the association would negotiate for specific industry groups or individual proprietors.

WA Independent Grocers Association president John Cummings welcomed the registration of the association.

“It is vitally important for supermarkets, or the anchored tenant of a shopping centre, to have viable businesses in the complex. We don’t want to lose those small businesses,” Mr Cummings said.

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