New Sunday wage a relief to Illawarra eateries

Struggling Illawarra cafe and restaurant businesses will be able to sigh a breath of relief after the Fair Work Commission announced cuts to casual employee penalty rates on Sundays.

As of July 1, 2014, casual loadings on Sundays will be cut by 25 per cent, dropping it in line with the standard 50 per cent Saturday loading.

The move, welcomed by industry groups, came as a relief to Wollongong business owner Emily Henderson.

She often works 13-hour shifts at her Sugar Cube cafe, Crown Street, on Sundays to cut back on staff costs.

"[The current penalty rates] put me in a difficult position because Sunday is my busiest day, but on the other hand, it costs a lot to have casuals on that day," Ms Henderson said.

"I need five people on on a Sunday, and that means I end up coming in here and doing a 13-hour shift myself so I can supervise 14- and 15-year-olds, who cost a lot less than adult casuals."

A 20-year-old casual would be paid about $33 plus superannuation per hour, on a Sunday.

For Ms Henderson, the extra work meant missing out on her foster son's Sunday AFL matches.

"The cuts will definitely take the pressure off, it means I can have more of a life because the only reason I do a 13-hour day on a Sunday is [to help the business] financially," she said.

The industry, which has been pushing for penalty rate reforms under the Fair Work Commission's four-yearly review of modern awards, will likely save about $112 million annually as a result.

The Illawarra Business Chamber has commended the decision, saying it is a "great win" for the region.

Chief executive Debra Murphy said the casual worker loadings on Sundays was having a crippling effect on Illawarra cafes and restaurants.

"The health and well-being of the Illawarra region is linked to our attractiveness as a tourist destination, and with a number of venues that couldn't afford to open on Sundays, it was becoming a real problem," Ms Murphy said.

"This is, and was never about ripping penalty rates away from workers. It's about finding the middle ground to make it financially possible for owners of businesses to continue to trade on Sundays, as opposed to closing their doors because of their wage bill."

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