Business leaders call for public holiday pay rate reform

THE Sunshine Coast's tourist strips will be open for business today, despite cafe and restaurant owners having to pay staff more than twice their usual wage.

But industry leaders warn penalty rates could cause small operators to keep their shutters closed on future public holidays.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland has painted a dire warning for the future of the Coast tourism industry if bonus rates for cafe and restaurant staff are not reformed.

CCIQ general manager of advocacy Nick Behrens pointed to the fact two-thirds of Noosa operators were closed over Easter Sunday and Monday and predicted some operators would not bother opening for Labour Day today.

He said the double-time-and-a-half rates for hospitality staff were unfair and if it was not overhauled it would have a negative impact on the region's tourism.

Mr Behrens said penalty rates should only apply for the first 38 hours in a work week or if an employee works more than 10 hours in a 24-hour period.

The Daily polled about 20 operators in key Coast tourist areas yesterday and most said they would be open for business today.

A handful who said they would be closed do not open on all Mondays.

Hastings Street Association president and restaurateur, Jim Berardo, said his establishments would only be open for part of today.

While wages needed to be fair, current rates were excessive for bosses," he said.

"There need to be flexibility in the pay system.

"They are designed for capital cities, not for a place like the Sunshine Coast. Our business is tourism.

"The bottom line is there will be fewer and fewer businesses that can afford to pay their people and they will close."

Sunshine Coast Destination Limited CEO Simon Ambrose said he hoped businesses would stay open to take advantage of tourist peak periods.

"It makes sense to make the most of the last days of school holidays, we've had a lot of great weather and visitors are everywhere," he said. "It's a great opportunity to provide a great service."

Caloundra Chamber of Commerce president Michael Shadforth said public holiday rates were out of date.

"I think it's an antiquated way of doing business and we need some reform," he said. "We need something better for our region that is predominantly a tourism area and it has been for a long time.

"The cost of doing business is just too much at our busiest time."

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