Federal Election: What the major parties plan to do for retail workers

As the 2022 Federal Election draws near, working Australians are concerned with low job security, high taxes, wage theft and the slow growth of wages compared to inflation.

This is what we know about the Liberal and Labor parties' plans to make life easier for retail workers.

Woman serves man at McDonald's
The Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU) says fast food workers live "below the poverty line" and is calling for the next Australian Government to address wages and working conditions as a matter of urgency. Source: Getty

Labor policies that affect retail workers

Labor has pledged to:

  • Legislate secure work as part of the Fair Work Act, which will affect retail, fast food and other workers who have been on casual conditions for full-time hours.

  • Limit the number of consecutive fixed-term contracts an employer can offer for the same role, with the aim of creating more secure work.

  • Bring into law "same job, same pay" for workers who get paid less for doing the same job as another employee. This is rife in the retail and fast food industry where the high number of younger workers get paid less than older employees doing the same work.

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Election banner

Another big issue for retail workers is wage theft, which is reported to cost Australian workers more than $1 billion each year. Labor plans to make wage theft a "national crime" by taking action against employers guilty of the practice.

Coalition policies that affect retail workers

The Coalition has committed:

  • $2.8 billion in incentives to train new apprentices and trainees on top of $7.8 billion this financial year to keep apprentices and trainees in jobs throughout a Covid-19 affected economy.

  • $3.7 billion to support 800,000 new training positions across a variety of sectors that include retail and $2.8 billion to train new apprentices and trainees.

The Coalition’s ReBoot program also aims to help disadvantaged younger Australians into work, including retail and fast food positions, through building life and employment skills.

The Coalition's Skills and Training Boost also encourages small businesses such as retailers to invest in the skills of their employees and train new ones, with outlets earning less than $50 million per year getting access to a 20 per cent reduction in training courses for their employees.

The Government also announced those earning less than $126,000 a year, like many retail and fast food workers, are eligible for a tax offset of up to $1,500.

Graphic with Liberal policies in blue on the left and Labor policies in red on the right
How the major parties policies compare

'No party serves our workers' - RAFFWU

When it comes to who would serve retail workers better, neither the Coalition or Labor can do the job as a government, according to the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU).

RAFFWU secretary Josh Cullinan highlighted worker rights, wages and conditions, superannuation for young workers, casualisation of the workforce, and safety of young workers as key issues both parties have failed to address.

He even called for a royal commission into wage theft due to a widespread lack of action by Australian governments.

“There is no meaningful expansion of worker rights mooted by either party. Until 2006, workers had meaningful access to industrial action, including strike action, to secure fair wages and conditions. This was circumscribed by Workchoices and even greater barriers put in place by the Fair Work Act,” Cullinan said.

“Right now, Coles refuses to bargain with workers and unless over 50,000 workers petition the Fair Work Commission from almost 1,000 stores, there is no path to bargaining. While we see public sector workers striking because their government employers agree to bargain, in the private sectors massive employers of young, insecure and low paid workers such as at Coles and McDonald’s cannot even get their bosses to the table.”

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