Fair Work Commission gives 20 year olds a pay rise

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Words | Emma Vlatko

The “Junior rate” may soon be a thing of the past after a decision by the Fair Work Commission found in favour of paying 20 year old retail workers 100 per cent pay. The new system means that 20 year olds with six months service will be entitled to the full adult wage. Until now, they were paid just 90 per cent of it.

Bolton J, who handed down the judgment, found the current system was “not achieving the modern awards and minimum wage objectives.” He said, “the discounted rate for all 20 year old retail employees is not a fair and relevant minimum safety net.”

The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA), said this decision was a step in the right direction. “For too long employers have been getting away with paying workers less than what they deserve,” SDA National Secretary, Joe De Bruyn said.

“By the time a worker reaches 20, they’ve often had several years experience in the industry. If you’re giving 100 per cent at work, you deserve to be paid 100 per cent too.” De Bruyn has announced that his next step will be to achieve fair pay for 19 year olds. However, the SDA has long been campaigning for full adult wages to begin at the age of 18.

Russell Zimmerman, Executive Director of the Australian Retailers Association, disagrees, warning that this move will cost money and jobs.

In an interview on ABC’s PM program, Zimmerman called the decision a “major disaster for Australia,” and one that “will see more and more young people left on the unemployment scrap heap.”

But Bolton J, in his judgment, was unconcerned with the future of Australian jobs’ numbers, agreeing with the SDA’s sentiments of equal work for equal pay. He found that there was “little difference in the duties and responsibilities assigned to 20 and 21 year old retail employees or in the level of supervision required.”

However, for all those 20 year old retail workers cheering, don’t expect a pay rise just yet. The new system will be introduced in stages, and 20 years olds will not begin to receive 100% of the full adult wage until July 2015.