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Sweets deal gives casuals bitter aftertaste

WORKING life for those behind the counter at Darrell Lea appears not so sweet, with the chocolate retailer said to be pushing moves to cut pay for casual staff.
Under a proposal that thrust the franchise operation on to the national political stage yesterday, workers have been asked to sign non-union individual contracts, known as Australian Workplace Agreements, which would rein in penalty rates and hit casual loadings.
Labor's industrial relations spokeswoman Julia Gillard took the workers' plight to Canberra yesterday and tabled the AWA issue during question time.

"Casual employees at Darrell Lea are being asked to sign an AWA which cuts casual loading, weekend and public holiday penalty rates, rostering protections and sick leave," Ms Gillard said.

The AWA also shows Darrell Lea has cut casual staff penalties including laundry allowances and the minimum number of hours a worker can be rostered.

Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey refused to bite. Instead, he swept aside questions and made light of the issue.

"Now we have the Deputy Leader of the Opposition invoking Darrell Lea and saying the Easter bunny is not going to come this Easter," Mr Hockey said.

"I say to her: leave the kiddies alone. They deserve to think the Easter bunny is coming this Easter."

Ms Gillard said that the Office of Workplace Services was investigating only the process Darrell Lea took in offering the contracts.

Mr Hockey refused to comment on the agreement because it was under investigation by the OWS.

"It'd be entirely inappropriate for me to make passing comment on investigations currently under way," he said.

Darrell Lea chief executive John Tolmie said no one had been forced to sign an AWA.

"We are very late adopters of this and, not only are we late, we did it over a long period to do it sensitively," he said.

"But come the end of the day we are using the tools the Government gave us to manage a business to remain competitive. It's a tough environment out there in retail."

Source: The Australian

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