About 450,000 cafe and restaurant employees will have new conditions and pay arrangements under a deal struck between unions and industry groups to keep people employed during the coronavirus pandemic.
The deal, which is the third struck in recent days following new enterprise bargains covering administrative and hospitality workers, takes the total number of workers who have had their working conditions altered to more than 2 million.
Cafes and restaurants are only allowed to do takeaway service, forcing some to close their doors.Credit:Louise Kennerley
Restaurants and cafes will be able to drop their staff down to 60 per cent of their hours and pay, ask them to work in different roles, and direct them to take leave as part of temporary measures set to last until June 30.
The deal, negotiated between the Restaurant and Catering Association, United Workers Union and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, will go to the Fair Work Commission for approval in coming days.
The association's chief executive Wes Lambert said he was "elated" and grateful to every party for negotiating quickly and collaboratively.
"The changes will keep businesses open and Australians in jobs," Mr Lambert said.
The government has directed restaurants to shut down or go takeaway only to slow the spread of coronavirus.
There are about 43,500 cafes and restaurants across the country and while many have capitalised on takeaway services, others have closed their doors.
Mr Lambert said the deal would give more flexibility to restaurants that had to dramatically reconfigure their businesses to become closer to grocery stores or food delivery outlets.
Where businesses are forced to close their doors, the deal allows restauraters to tell their staff to take their annual leave, and then leave without pay.
But a prominent industry advocate, Steve Knott from the Australian Mines and Metals Association, has criticised the speed and impact of the award renegotiations.
He said many businesses that had lost revenue could not afford to keep workers on, even at a reduced rate.
He suggested the government legislate to allow employers to slash staff hours and pro rata pay without talking to their workers' union.
Mr Knott said the unprecedented negotiations were still too slow when businesses were standing their workers down in quick succession.
"Our industrial relations system is based on a horse and buggy type environment and it's just not fit for purpose," Mr Knott said.
Attorney-General Christian Porter has been a strong advocate of the changes to awards and the collaborative approach that has produced huge changes that would usually be bitterly fought and likely prove impossible.
He has previously said the deals are "outstanding examples" of what Australia needs to survive the coronavirus.
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