David Stuart

Hospitality workers' pay "unsustainable" says industry

THE cost of paying hospitality workers has now reached "unsustainable" levels, hitting 45% of the restaurant industry's costs, an industry report has claimed.

A "benchmarking report" from Restaurant and Catering Australia released on Monday found wages and salaries now represented almost 40% of total business expenses.

When staff "on-costs", such as payroll tax and training employees was included, that figure rose to 45.3% of expenses, the report showed.

RCA chief executive John Hart said the report was a stark reminder of how tough the hospitality and tourism industry employers had it.

"The survey revealed 12.9% of respondents close on both Sundays and public holidays," he said.

"Of these respondents, 92.4% indicated they close on Sundays and public holidays due to the cost of penalty rates on these days.

"For a sector dominated by small business, labour costs are unsustainable and are likely to result in restaurant doors closing or staff hours being reduced."

The message was similar to that executed by the industry in recent Fair Work Commission reviews of penalty rates and the minimum wage.

Mr Hart said it showed that the current restaurant industry award was not meeting the needs of cafe and restaurant businesses.

"The results of the survey prove the impact of wage pressures will mean less job opportunities for Australians across the country," he said.

But the hospitality union, United Voice, said the report was a "grab for money from workers' pockets", and challenged weekend penalty rates.

Union acting national secretary David O'Byrne said penalty rates were "fair compensation" for working weekends, and the RCA had only recently talked about "how well the sector was doing".

"Australians don't want special treatment for restaurants on penalty rates. They want restaurant owners to conform to the same standards as every other industry," he said.

But the report's release came as the hotel, resorts and backpacker industries on Monday signed up to a new agreement to improve compliance with workplace laws.

The Accommodation Association of Australia's three-year agreement with the Fair Work Ombudsman will aim to help employers meet their obligations to staff.

It will involve the Ombudsman and AA working together on the problems the industry faces in complying with workplace laws.

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