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Ewin Hannan | June 30, 2009

Article from: The Australian

FEDERAL Labor’s revamp of the award system faces fresh delays after the Australian Industrial Relations Commission took the unusual step of calling on Julia Gillard to set out the hours of work, penalty rates and overtime that should apply in the restaurant sector.

Employers and union officials last night interpreted the AIRC’s move as reflecting its disquiet at Ms Gillard recently bowing to industry pressure and directing the commission to create a separate award for restaurants and cafes.

Ms Gillard’s office made it clear last night that the Deputy Prime Minister had made “quite specific requests of the commission, (and) it is now a matter for the commission to progress”.

Business expressed concern that the move by AIRC president Geoff Giudice would further frustrate the award system revamp and leave employers without adequate time to understand the new award, due to be operational on January 1.
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The Restaurant and Catering Association’s chief executive, John Hart, said he feared the AIRC was trying to restart a process that had already taken 18 months.

Last month the Workplace Relations Minister directed the AIRC to treat restaurants, cafes and catering businesses separately from hotels as part of its award overhaul.

Ms Gillard’s move came after a month-long campaign by restaurants and cafes for the federal government to rethink the overhaul, warning they could be forced to close if they were confronted by substantial hikes in minimum award wages, penalty rates, casual rates, shift loadings and allowances.

In her directive, Ms Gillard said the AIRC should create a modern award that “establishes a penalty rate and overtime regime that takes account of the operational requirements of the restaurant and catering industry, including the labour-intensive nature of the industry and the industry’s core trading times”.

In a statement released last Friday, the AIRC’s award modernisation full bench, led by Justice Giudice, called on Ms Gillard to provide further information.

“Given the circumstances which have led to our consideration of the proposed award, we would be assisted by any indications on behalf of the minister of the scope and terms of the proposed award, including terms relating to hours of work, penalty rates and overtime.”

The president has previously pointed out that Ms Gillard has varied her original award modernisation request four times.

A spokeswoman for Ms Gillard said the minister’s amendment made “quite specific requests of the commission”, including that the AIRC “establish a penalty rate and overtime regime that appropriately recognises the restaurant and catering industry’s core trading times and the labour intensive nature of work in the industry”.

“It is now a matter for the commission to progress, in consultation with the relevant parties,” the spokeswoman said.

“The award modernisation task is extremely complex and the commission has managed this task with its usual professionalism and expertise.”

Mr Hart said he was concerned at the commission’s move, saying Ms Gillard’s request did not require clarification. “The minister’s modification to the modernisation request I think was abundantly clear.”

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25710563-601,00.html

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