Worry turns to worship after rate cut

HAPPY: Lush Cosmetics Kotara shop assistants Josh Foy and EJ Pickering will keep their full Sunday penalty rates. Picture: Jonathan CarrollKOTARA retail workers Josh Foy and EJ Pickering consider themselves lucky.

They have nothing but praise for theiremployer, makeup chain Lush Cosmetics, which decided soon after the workplace umpire’s historic ruling on penalty rates the company would not cut Sunday pay for its employees, citing good business ethics and agreeing topay above the official award.

“It was just a sense of relief,” Ms Pickering, 24, said.

“I live week to week, I have medical bills, I depend on every cent and I need work to get by. I was worried, but then the message came through [that Lush would ignore the ruling] and it was rest easy from there.”

Her co-worker, Josh Foy, a 30-year-old student at the University of Newcastle, said others at weren’t so lucky, including his girlfriend.

“People are hoping their work doesn’t pass the cut on,” he said. “When you work in retail, you rely on weekend work.”

A handful of Hunter businesses announced on social media on Friday that they would also pay above the award rate, although some announcements should be taken with a grain of salt as the Fair Work Commission ruling on Sunday ratesonly affects the retail, fast food, hospitality and pharmacy awards.

Josh Foy and EJ Pickering. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Cafes and restaurants on the Restaurant Industry Award were unaffected by Thursday’s decision, as the umpire ruled the industry did not mount a strong enough case to warrant a Sunday rate cut.

Hunter Business Chamber chief executive Bob Hawes predicted most of the region’s businesses would take the saving, which he said was much-needed as costs continue to rise.

“There will be a market response,” he said. “You might start to see businesses using it to have longer trading hours, for example.”

Mr Hawes earlier said it would reduce the Hunter’s youth unemployment rate if business was able to employ more staff.

However, that was played down by Cessnock Labor mayor Bob Pynsent, whose community has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the state at 20.6 per cent. “I’m not convinced,” he said.