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Australia Day penalty rates forced café owner to lean on friends
As a result of the high cost of labour on Australia Day, café owner Rosy Thoonen, was forced to lean on her friends.
The owner of Organica Café and Providore in Melbourne’s exclusive shopping strip, Hawksburn Village in Toorak, said she was “always open” because she has to cover the rent and other costs.
Thanks to her friends, Ms Thoonen can have her café open on public holidays but if she had to pay penalty rates, Rosy wouldn’t be able to afford to open.
“You have to pay rent for the whole seven days. To make ends meet, you have to open and just take your chances on how busy you will be.”
With the Australian Open, Melbourne is in peak tourist season with more than 30, 000 international visitors. However, many exclusive restaurants and shops were closed on Monday; many owners citing penalty rates as the main reason.
Working in restaurants on public holidays, staff can be paid up to $59 an hour under rulings by the Fair Work Commission, which requires employers to pay double time and a half.
Having worked in hospitality for more than 30 years, Ms Thoonen said for many businesses it just isn’t worth opening on public holidays.
“If I had to pay penalty rates for equivalent number of staff as the number of friends who are helping me out with the number of customers through today and the margin, I’d be making a loss.”
Ms Thoonen said the government should allow business owners to negotiate pay rates and agreements with staff for public holidays. She said there needs to be a minimum pay rate set that is fair for both parties, and the rest to be negotiated.
John Hart, Restaurant and Catering chief executive, said it was “complete craziness” and there was “no doubt’ most Australian restaurants were closed and that was the “shame of the current regime”.
Last week, the Productivity Commission released a five issue paper on its review into to the workplace relations system, the first major review of the sector in 30 years. It is expected to analyse the effectiveness of penalty rates, a high minimum wage and the complex system of industrial awards.
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*Information sourced via the Financial Review.