Under 18s lose wage bid

ADULT wages for eighteen-year-olds in the retail industry have become an impossible dream thanks to the Beazley-Reith deal on junior wage rates, says Australian Democrats Workplace Relations spokesman Andrew Murray.

Under the Beazley-Reith deal the Shop Assistants Union will have to conclusively prove adult rates for eighteen year olds will not affect the “competitive position of young people in the labour market”.

The junior rates benchmark of twenty-one years of age was fixed in the 1920s when twenty-one was the age of majority.

Senator Murray said the deal was worse for young workers than the original Reith Bill, making it harder for unions to change existing junior rates.

“I don’t think Labor quite understands the full ramifications of the law they are enacting that reflects the fact the amendments were developed secretly without consulting the unions,” he said.

“The Beazley-Reith issues reduce the whole issue of youth wages down to a pure economic question, rather than one balancing equity and employment considerations.”

However, Combined Small Business Associations of WA chairman Oliver Moon said the Beazley-Reith move was a very positive step for small business.

“It wouldn’t have had a huge effect on WA because most employers employ under WA award conditions,” Mr Moon said.

“But it entrenches, at least in the Federal system, a youth wage.

“A lot of small businesses survive on employing staff under the youth wage system.

“A loss of this would severely curtail their viability and productivity.”

Mr Moon said the only concern was that youth workers were not exploited.

“However, the youth wage system sets in place a system where youth can’t be exploited,” he said.

“Plus the youth wage system provides a training ground.

“It is not realistic for someone to give up study and expect to be able to go straight out and earn an adult living,” he said.

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